County bragging rights on the line: Devils
GYPSUM – Eagle Valley has a title to defend. The Devils aren’t in position to reclaim their 3A Western Slope crown, but they are primed to take another game from Battle Mountain.Yes, last year’s 10-2 state playoff team lost a bunch of starters, and the Devils are sitting at 2-6, but it doesn’t matter. Eagle Valley has history on its side. That’s not the only reason the Devils will paint Phelan Field red and black tonight at 7 p.m.Rise upIt seems that no matter the occasion the Devils are up the challenge.Two years after moving up to 3A, Eagle Valley won league.
Oh, and in their three final years in 2A, the Devils were a playoff team. Sure, this may not mean a lot now, but the kids on the field for the Devils tonight were the ones sitting in the stands for all those years.Battle Mountain’s offense may be at full strength, but consider up against what Huskies’ back Ryan Hedrick is going. The Devils held Rifle’s Tyler Thompson to less than 100 yards last week in a tight 21-14 loss. Oh, and there was that 16-6 win against Steamboat earlier in the year when the Sailors threw a touchdown on the board when the game was all but over. If this defense shows up, first downs will be hard to come by for the Huskies. Yeah, the Huskies have a big line, but don’t sell the Devils’ d-line short – they take blockers head-on, and the linbebackers fill gaps quickly. ElusiveWhen facing Eagle Valley’s double-wing offense, there are only so many permutations you can cover.
Brendan Best (who took second in the state wrestling meet at 171 pounds last year), Nick Whitehead and Alex Dorothy are legitimate threats to carry for good yardage on every down. And just because Mike Medsker drops back to pass (where even on the run, he’s been dead-on accurate) doesn’t mean he won’t take off for a 10-yard gain, dragging two defenders with him. When your quarterback can bench more than most defensive lineman, these things happen.While the Devils may not throw 20 passes per game, they pick up key first downs by air. Jordan VanVoorst’s sure hands have brought in many a pass, and it takes a freight train to have chance at knocking the ball lose. Double him? Bear Barkman will burn you in the flats and find the end zone.The little thingsIn the Western Slope trenches, where drives can last a full quarter, you take all the yards and possessions you can get. The Devils learned this lesson early in the year when they were flagged nine times for 85 yards and dropped the ball like it was coated with Crisco in a 14-12 loss to Summit.But in the last two weeks, the Devils have turned the ball over only twice and were flagged only six times. The result? Eagle Valley played Glenwood and Rifle down to the wire. College coaches would kill for those kind of stats. And when your offensive line doesn’t jump (I’m not sure when it last had a false start), it means they’re in synch.
OK, so the Devils have missed some extra points this year, but they’ve connected on plenty of two-point conversions. Again, the double-wing coming up big.And Eagle Valley has also found a way to shorten up the field with huge punt and kick returns.GrowthBattle Mountain is at 3-3 in league and 4-4 overall right now, and is eyeing a playoff berth. Sure, the Devils have lost six games, but four have been by one score or less. If you look at the Devils’ win and loss column, you could say they’ve been inconsistent, but there’s been immense growth from the squad.When the Devils lost a heartbreaker to Delta, 17-16, dropping to 1-4, they could have thrown in the towel. Instead, they come from behind to beat Montezuma-Cortez, nearly did the same to Glenwood and came from behind to take a third-quarter lead against Rifle.
Kids who didn’t start last year are doing what those before them did – filling into John Ramunno’s system. Eight games into the season, the Devils’ walking wounded are healthy, and everyone is hungry.There’s one game that can erase the Devils’ close losses. There’s one game where tradition trumps all. Standing in the locker room after last Friday’s nail-biter against Rifle, I could see it in the Devils’ eyes. They want this one. They want to restore that feeling, where they can huddle up at the end of the game and scream, “Ain’t it great to be a Devil?”Tonight, that feeling will be back.Eagle Valley 21, Battle Mountain 17If Eagle Valley wins, Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com. If they lose, he’ll be heading up the Vail Daily’s foreign desk in Tehran.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.