Vail Valley preps: Our first look (and commentary) on the RPI
September 20, 2017
In "The Jerk," Steve Martin did not yell, "The new RPI is here."
He was more excited about the new phone books. I am more excited about the new phone books, even though that concept really doesn't exist any more.
But the rating-percentage index is the coin of the realm in high school sports, ergo, with the first release of these numbers for the fall, we take a look at our local squads.
The Huskies' David Cope does get the honor for being the first Eagle County coach to mention RPI. He did so on Saturday, Sept. 2, more than two weeks ago. It's fitting that he did, as Cope is guru of all Western Slope playoff scenarios.
True story: Before RPI, I had reporters from other papers around the Slope calling me to ask Cope what he thought of the soccer playoff picture. Cope was always right, so he qualified as an impeccable source.
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The 4A Slope gets two automatic bids to the dance and the rest is based on RPI. Battle Mountain leads the Slope and is No. 15 in the RPI after beating Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, Sept. 19. So the Huskies are good on both counts.
It's worth noting that a team's opponents' winning percentage (OWP or strength of schedule) is a factor in RPI.
The Huskies have done themselves well with OWP as their two losses are to Montrose (ranked No. 2 in RPI) and The Classical Academy (No. 7). Those teams, along with VMS, Battle Mountain's other nonconference opponent, should win games as the season progresses, which will help its strength of schedule.
On the flip side, the Huskies and other Slope teams in soccer will get dinged by playing Rifle and Palisade, teams that are a combined 1-13 at this point, twice in conference play.
This is point of contention with RPI, particularly on the western side of the state in a lot of sports. Being geographically isolated, teams on the Western Slope play each other twice to fill out their schedules. I think it's a good way of determining a true conference champion, but being required to play the bad teams twice hurts a team's RPI.
Speaking of which, Eagle Valley beat the snot out of Palisade, 10-0, on Tuesday and dropped to No. 50 in RPI, which is updated daily. This illustrates the above problem — the Devils did everything they should on Tuesday and they dropped. That's screwy.
Regardless, Eagle Valley (3-5) needs to get moving to make the field of 32.
In 3A, Vail Mountain School (3-3) is No. 23 with 24 teams making the postseason. The Gore Rangers can also qualify by finishing first or second in the 3A Slope, and the bulk of league play is coming soon.
My bet is that VMS can make a run in the Slope. The Gore Rangers have played a good nonconference schedule with games against Jefferson Academy (3A No. 3), Colorado Academy (No. 15) and Battle Mountain (4A No. 15).
As always, your mileage may vary.
The format on the gridiron is much simpler — win your league or finish in the top 16 in RPI.
In 3A, Battle Mountain (2-1) is No. 28, while Eagle Valley (0-3) is 32. The reason the two teams are so close despite disparate records is that the Huskies have played three 2A teams so far. Football is the only sport where classification comes into effect. Teams can play down one game per year without penalty before the RPI dings a team for playing below classification. The Huskies have been penalized for beating 2A Roaring Fork and losing to 2A Coal Ridge.
While the Devils are winless, it's worth noting that Eagle Valley's OWP is .667, meaning that Kent Denver, Erie and Lutheran, their opponents to date, are really good.
Vail Christian (1-2) is No. 32 in the 1A rankings.
In Class 4A, it's win your league or finish in the top 36 of RPI to make regionals.
Eagle Valley (5-4) is No. 28, while Battle Mountain (3-4) is No. 39.
Before Devils coach Jackie Rindy's head explodes — Madame, like Cope, has been known to have her opinions on the RPI system — Eagle Valley has a solid path to the postseason.
The Devils are 3-0 in the 4A Slope and tied with Glenwood Springs (4-0) and Palisade (3-0). In a related development, the Devils are at Palisade on Friday, Sept. 22. Among other scheduling notes, Eagle Valley plays Glenwood Springs twice between now and Tuesday, Oct. 10.
There is another solution to this RPI mess — win your matches/games. Looking at the history of the RPI, which is fancy way of saying, "look at last year," the Devils went 20-3 during the regular season and were the No. 2 seed in the postseason. That seeding was probably too high in retrospect, but Eagle Valley is shooting for a top 12 seed to host regionals.
While past performance does not guarantee future results, it's not hard to see the Devils making a bit of run. Three of their four losses are to 5A squads at the Regis Jam earlier this month. It's 4A the rest of the way. (And, in volleyball, playing up a classification receives no reward, another flaw in the glorious RPI.)
Battle Mountain is on the bubble, but I wouldn't be surprised, given their schedule, that the Huskies can move up in the RPI.
As for 2A, we are not forgetting Vail Mountain and Vail Christian. Class 2A still has district play, so the Gore Rangers and Saints can play their way into the postseason through that tournament. RPI only comes into play at the state tournament with regard to seeding.
If the season were to end right now, then Eagle Valley would be No. 29 and in the postseason field of 32.
Stay tuned, everyone.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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