Freud: Battle Mountain football opens the season against Middle Park (column) | VailDaily.com

Freud: Battle Mountain football opens the season against Middle Park (column)

When it comes to Battle Mountain football, which opens its season on Friday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m. against Middle Park — be there or be square — I approach the Huskies with a weird combination of excitement and dread.

There are legitimately good reasons to be excited about Battle Mountain's 2018 campaign.

• Coach Jim Schuppler is in his second season — holy stability, Batman; yes, a joke, but very important for this program that has been a coaching carousel — and is here for the long-term. He proved his X's and O's skills last year as well as during his first stint under coach David Joyce (2008-11) as an assistant.

• With coaching stability, the Huskies have been able to work during the offseason in the weight room and all the other stuff that football programs such as Palisade take for granted.

• The Huskies are coming off what was a pretty darn good season by the standards of the program, going 4-6 on the field and 5-5 in the record books, with Glenwood Springs having to forfeit a win against Battle Mountain due to using an ineligible player.

More telling, the Huskies beat 3A competition for the first time since 2011 with wins over Eagle Valley — some wins are more equal than others — and Summit County.

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This may sound strange, but part of the battle with Battle Mountain football is convincing the team itself that it can compete — and win. This is a process, and strides were made here.

• The Huskies have a lot of talent returning, headlined by quarterback Traver Goldberg, now a senior.

"I'm pretty excited with how he's reacted," Schuppler said. "He has been there since Jan. 16 when winter workouts began."

Goldberg's got a backfield with the likes of Nick Walter, Kia Gongaware and Anthony Sanchez.

The Seven, aka the offensive line and tight ends, are six seniors and one junior (Jimmy Hancock). Among the tight ends are Camden Dooley, shifting from running back, and Max Christenberry, recently of discus fame.

With the double wing, the distinction is not great between tight end and wide receiver so look for Walter, Dooley, Luke Grimaldi and Shepherd Stone to nab balls from Goldberg.

On defense, the Huskies have familiar names on the line in Sebastian Smith, Mac Schmidt, Van Storz, Hector Escobar Hector Machigua and Stone. The linebackers are Hancock, Gongaware, David Sandberg and Dooley.

Walter, Anderson and Sanchez anchor the secondary.

On the other hand …

This is my 22nd year covering this team and the Huskies are 57-158 in my time here. The high-water mark is The Year — 2011 — when the Huskies went 9-2 and last appeared in the playoffs.

Perhaps, you can see where the dread enters the equation. While long-time observers often suffer from the effects of history — I still curl up into the fetal position thinking of 2013 when the Huskies went 0-10 and were outscored 495-47 — more than the current players themselves, Battle Mountain is still swimming upstream when it comes to football legitimacy.

Huskies fans need to keep their fingers crossed on the health front. As is often the case with Battle Mountain football, the drop from first string to second is precipitous. There is also learning how to win — the Huskies were in five close games last season and went 1-4 in them.

Coach Schuppler says that goes back to all of the offseason work.

"We have not skirted any opportunity to work," he said. "The expectation to be successful comes from the work behind it. Everyday you work you put in a deposit. When you get in a game, you collect on that deposit. When it comes down to the tough moments, you dig into that bank and realize what you've got invested."

The schedule

As Battle Mountain has been in its latest rebuild, it has had a lighter schedule than most teams. As a 3A team, the Huskies played four of their five nonconference games against 2A squads, starting 2-0 against Steamboat Springs and a down-trodden Roaring Fork team. They inexplicably lost to Coal Ridge, 31-14, fell to a good 2A team in Basalt, 41-33, and were very competitive against 3A Green Mountain, a 27-23 defeat.

The Huskies opened the 3A Slope with competitive losses to Rifle and Glenwood (later flipped to a win) and proceeded to get housed by Palisade before ending 2017 with wins against Eagle Valley and Summit.

The Huskies will face a 2A nonconference slate with two 3A squads (at Alameda on Aug. 31 and at Woodland Park on Sept. 21) who ended up playing down for the 2018-19 cycle.

• Nonconference: While it is a 2A nonconference slate, the Huskies aren't good enough to show up and win. It's tempting to think 5-0 going into Slope play, but the Huskies have to earn their stripes. Middle Park sees "at Battle Mountain" on its schedule on Friday, and sees a win. As much as one can say that Alameda and Woodland Park are scheduled as wins, those two schools see the Huskies as the same.

Basalt (Sept. 7) is a darn good 2A team and Moffat County (Sept. 14) has made a habit out of beating the Huskies. (The Huskies have only beaten Moffat County, once a member of the 3A Slope twice in my 21 years — 2006 and 2014.)

Do note that the rating-percentage index (RPI), the computer formula that determines postseason qualifiers, will ding Battle Mountain for playing 2A squads.

• The Slope: Rifle moves down to 2A — thank the deity of your choosing — while Steamboat moves up — a possible boon to the Huskies. Eagle Valley (Nov. 2 in Gypsum) remains the mother of all football games, while Summit (Oct. 5) is Homecoming and a rivalry game as far as the Tigers are concerned.

And that leaves Glenwood (Edwards on Oct. 19), followed by at Palisade on Oct. 26. This is Palisade's league until someone proves otherwise. Glenwood, now coached by Pat Engle, the Huskies coach from 2003-06, is probably No. 2 — the Huskies haven't beaten the Bulldogs or Demons since 2011.

Schuppler is taking a wait-and-see approach with the expectation of his squad, its strength of schedule and playoff chances.

"A reasonable schedule gives us an opportunity to be successful early and to play some schools with numbers like ours as we grow into a full-on 3A program," he said. "Say what you want about our schedule, we're playing the teams across from us. No doubt, the RPI will sort out itself and that's out of our control. We can control what's in front of us and see how it all falls out."

Huskies Football Live on High Five

The Battle Mountain Huskies football team takes on the Middle Park Panthers live on High Five Access Media on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.

All Battle Mountain varsity home football games are televised live, on cable Channel 5 or your smartphone, tablet or computer on Live on Five at http://www.highfivemedia.org/live.

Mark your calendars for games on the following dates:

Friday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. – vs. Middle Park

Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m. – vs. Basalt

Friday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. – vs. Moffat County

Friday, Oct. 5, 7 p.m. – vs. Summit County

Friday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m. – vs. Glenwood Springs

Games subsequently will be replayed on cable and available online, on demand. Viewers can find a schedule and video at http://www.highfivemedia.org.

Filming of these games is made possible by Alpine Bank.