Battle Mountain Huskies, Vail Christian Saints gridders get all-league awards
New football Conferences
Class 3A Western Slope
Northwest League — 8-man
The local football teams have their all-league honors, now the question is “What league?”
In 3A football, Battle Mountain got five Western Slope selections, while 1A — for the time being — Vail Christian had eight from the Foothills Conference.
As a reminder, winning games helps a team get more all-league selections, so Battle Mountain having five picks — three on the first team — is nice accomplishment for a 5-5 season.
Jake Bukovich is no surprise. He was handful on the defensive line and lined up at tight end on offense. Nick Hancock was another two-way lineman who helped anchor The Seven, as Battle Mountain’s offense-line/tight-end package is dubbed in honor of Todd Walker, Class of 2008.
The Huskies rushed for 2,613 yards in 10 games, which means these two are the ones being honored for that achievement.
Nick Walter was the beneficiary of the beef moving bodies with a 4.9-yards-per-carry average. Walter is a junior and will be a first-team, all-league returning player.
Nelson Ledezma got honorable-mention honors, playing on both sides of the line as well as serving as the team’s kicker. Quarterback Traver Goldberg also got honorable mention, an exciting prospect as he returns next fall as a senior.
“We are as committed as the 2010 and 2011 teams were,” Huskies coach Jim Schuppler said, referring to the Battle Mountain football’s last playoff appearance in 2011. “I think our potential is extremely high, but a lot goes into a season, and we’re going to have to work for it.”
Vail Christian’s Joseph Emmer, Alex Hilty and Davis Hermes all took home first honors from the Foothills. Emmer caught passes (35 for a team-high 529 yards) and picked them off as a defensive back.
Hilty was a part of much improved offensive line, while Hermes made life generally unpleasant for opposing offenses as a linebacker.
On the second team, Jake Nowicki led the Saints in rushing, while Jack Powers led the squad in receptions. Jimmy Pavelich was another anchor of the line.
Quarterback Tom Engleby and linebacker Sal Gonzalez are honorable-mention selections.
Eight is a big number with regard to Vail Christian football.
That’s because eight fewer students means the Saints are returning to 8-man football for the next two seasons.
For the 2016-17 football seasons, the cut between 8-man and Class 1A 11-man football was 136 students, and Vail Christian had a student body of 156. In the new two-year cycle, Vail Christian had 148 students on Oct. 1, known as Count Day, while CHSAA adjusted its numbers with 150 or fewer being the boundary for 8-man.
Ergo, welcome back, Vail Christian.
“I think it’s best for the kids where we’re at with out numbers,” Vail Christian athletic director and football coach Tim Pierson said. “We had a great group of seniors who will be graduating. As far as competitive balance, it’s a good spot to be.”
The Saints went 1-8 in 2016 and 3-6 in 2017. Vail Christian was making strides in the 11-man game. Its conference sent three teams to the state playoffs, including the top seed, Bennett.
But a return to 8-man football is a return to more familiar rivals in the Northwest League with Gilpin County, Hayden, Plateau Valley, Rangely, Soroco and West Grand. By the by, West Grand beat Soroco, 38-28, in the 8-man state semifinals this season, so this is a better league than the Saints saw two years ago.
Meanwhile, the 3A Slope got some minor adjustments. Rifle heads down to 2A, where the Bears should be immediate contenders. Meanwhile, Steamboat Springs cycles back up to the 3A Slope. The league is now Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Glenwood Springs, Palisade, Steamboat and Summit County.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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