What Eagle Valley football can learn from Battle Mountain
Yes, it is possible
This is ostensibly a column about Battle Mountain football, which does not mean that Eagle Valley fans should stop reading.
We’re still rather amazed that the Huskies beat 4A Liberty, 41-0, last week. The moment Battle Mountain athletic director Gentry Nixon called me and told me that the team was playing Liberty, I thought to myself, “That’s a loss.”
Liberty has 1,650 kids to Battle Mountain’s 900-and-change. Given the Huskies lack of success on the gridiron — two winning seasons (one playing as a 2A school) since 1993 — it wasn’t exactly going out on a limb. Four days later, I’m still wondering how it happened.
Eagle Valley fans should consider all of the above a compliment. The Devils, despite their 1-2 record, are a good team. They probably were a playoff team in a “normal” 10-game season without COVID-19. We expect things from Eagle Valley football. Again, it’s a compliment, and it might provide an applicable lesson.
Faith forged in years
Watching Battle Mountain football for 24 years now has been a formative experience for me, as I would expect it would be for anyone who has watched this circus for 24 years. (You try it, people.)
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The Huskies can seem hopeless and yet be the cause of eternal hope simultaneously. Hopeless: A game against Gunnison in the late 1990s … The visiting Cowboys return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. First Battle Mountain possession: Pick-six. … Huskies go three-and-out, and Gunnison returns the punt to the house. Battle Mountain is down, 21-0, with 10 minutes left in the first quarter. (Palm slap to head, everyone.)
Heck, last year, Battle Mountain’s first two home games were postponed by lightning. Maybe, God is trying to tell you something when this happens?
Yet just when you’re ready to give up all hope — say, after getting housed in its first four games this year — Battle Mountain goes out and wins. It is utterly absorbing, while at the same time, sometimes, just unwatchable. (Yes, I still watch.)
Part of this is the optimist in me. You want to see it happen because if the Huskies ever win a 3A Slope title and make a playoff run deep into the bracket, it’s going to be amazing. (I’ll come out of retirement from a sunbelt golfing community, if necessary.)
What convinces me that Battle Mountain will find a way out of its traditional funk is that everything is cyclical. In the last 20 years, the Cubs (last won in 1908), the White Sox (1917), the Red Sox (1918), the Giants (1954), the Eagles (1960), the Buccaneers (never and just hopeless), the Saints (see the Buccaneers), the Capitals (never), the Blues (never), the Blackhawks (1961) and the Warriors (1975) have all won their championships.
Are you telling me that if the Cubs can do it, the Huskies can’t?
Battle Mountain works and keeps at it, even if the team seems destined to fail. And every so often, you get an improbable win like the Huskies had over Liberty.
Come back, Devils fans
While most of the west end of Eagle County likes to display the countenance that they, of course, don’t care about Battle Mountain and just expect to beat the Huskies on game week, Devils fans do care, if just only to reinforce historical superiority.
But Devils fans could learn from the Huskies’ travails because Eagle Valley football plays Palisade tonight at 6 p.m. at Stocker Stadium. Eagle Valley hasn’t beaten Palisade since 2005 and a lot of casual observers will think the Bulldogs will win in a walk. I usually mark down Palisade as a loss when the schedule comes out every year.
But let’s play some transitivity. Eagle Valley lost to Conifer, 28-27, as Devils fans saw two weeks ago. Last week Conifer thumped Palisade, 28-14.
Perhaps the impossible isn’t so impossible.