Battle Mountain soccer honors 19 seniors, beats Vail Mountain in rare matchup

Teams of different divisions facing each other this year due to early season travel constraints

Battle Mountain senior Leo Soto controls the ball against Vail Mountain School on Thursday in Edwards. Battle Mountain won 2-1.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The Battle Mountain soccer team Thursday hosted its friends and neighbors from Vail Mountain School, holding the Gore Rangers to one goal while scoring two in front of a large crowd in Edwards.

A Battle Mountain versus Vail Mountain soccer game is an out-of-the-ordinary event for Eagle County soccer fans, as the two teams play in different conferences. In 2021, however, teams from Divisions 4A and 3A have been playing against each other due to the travel constraints caused by the Glenwood Canyon closure earlier this season. As a result, the Huskies and Gore Rangers have faced each other twice this season, with the first game occurring Oct. 9. A crowd of about 300 turned out for Thursday’s rematch.

The Battle Mountain Huskies’ 2-1 victory was a repeat of the score from the Oct. 9 match, but the game played out much differently Thursday as the Huskies went into halftime tied at 1-1. Last time around, they were down by one for much of the game, but scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to take the win.

On Thursday, Vail Mountain School again took an early lead when Nick Kirwood earned a penalty and scored on the penalty kick. It was a team-leading 12th goal of the season for Kirwood. But some 18 minutes later, in the final moments of the half, Battle Mountain forward Sammy Koontz scored on a rebound to even the score heading into the half.

Vail Mountain School's Nick Kirwood moves the ball against Battle Mountain Thursday in Edwards. Kirwood scored on a penalty kick in the first half, his 12th goal of the season.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

And this was no ordinary half.

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Thursday’s matchup doubled as senior night for the Battle Mountain Huskies. A pomp-and-circumstance event, senior night included numerous forms of recognition for the team’s eldest players. The senior recognition was composed of an individual ceremony for each senior in which the students and their parents were called onto the field, photographed with a representative from the school and then photographed individually as a family. Meanwhile, a short biography was read to the crowd featuring quotes from both the player and the coach. A very thorough affair, the event also included a group photo in which oversized head-on-a-stick faces of the players as toddlers were displayed.

While this would elongate an ordinary halftime even with an average squad of seniors, the Battle Mountain Husky soccer team of 2021 is represented by the largest senior class in the history of the high school’s soccer program. As a result, 19 seniors were honored on Thursday. In remarks prepared about the team, coach David Cope said the senior squad could almost fill two lineups, making competition tough for the starting spots.

“In the coming weeks, they hope to leave a legacy on the field that will rank up there with the great Husky teams of all time,” Cope said.

The elongated halftime, in addition to celebrating the Huskies, may have iced their opponents a bit as well. While soccer players returning to the field after halftime often dispel a lot of energy in the opening moments, this didn’t appear to be the case on Thursday.

“I do think that they came out pretty quiet,” said Vail Mountain School Gore Rangers coach Jake Rainey. “We had extra time to make the adjustments that we needed, but the only thing was coming back out and trying to rewarm up … I don’t think it played too much of a role, but I do think (the Huskies) came out stronger than we did.”

Battle Mountain's Bryant Ramirez kicks the ball down field against Vail Mountain School Thursday in Edwards. Ramirez scored the game-winning goal, his 10th on the season.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Nevertheless, the score remained tied for the next 20 minutes until Battle Mountain senior Bryant Ramirez capitalized on a moment of disarray in Vail Mountain’s defense and belted a shot into the back of the net. It was a fitting final goal on the evening, as 30 minutes earlier, Ramirez had been described during the senior night festivities as the top talent on the field.

“Bryant has been the best player in Western Colorado for two years now,” Cope said. “It will take a few players to make up for the absence of Bryant Ramirez next fall.”

Vail Mountain School fell to 8-5-2 on the season, while the Huskies jumped to 9-4-1.

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