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Devils continue their dominance

EVFB Brendan Best PU 10-27-06
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EAGLE-VAIL – The faces change – with the exception of Eagle Valley head coach John Ramunno – but the result remains the same.Bobby Pietrack, Joe Bisant, Steve Evancho, Sean Matheson, and now this group of Devils. Eagle Valley made it seven in a row dating back to 1997 against Battle Mountain – the two teams did not play regular season games in 2000 and 2001 – with a 35-16 win Friday at Phelan Field.”It’s always good to come up here and get a win,” Ramunno said. “That makes it nine (sic) in a row for the Devils.”And, no, it doesn’t get old for Devils (3-6 overall and 3-4 in the 3A Slope), who tossed their hat back into the state playoff race with the win.”It feels good. This is a game we always want to win every year,” Eagle Valley quarterback Mike Medsker said. “It takes everything away. If you win this one, it’s a good season.”For Battle Mountain (4-5, 3-4), Friday’s game was an improvement from previous shellackings at the hands of Eagle Valley, but a loss is still a loss.”Our intent was to win the football game,” Huskies coach PatEngle said.

Eagle Valley won behind a steady stream of the running of Nick Whitehead, Brendan Best, Alex Dorothy and Kevin Mansfield, the steady leadership of Medsker, a ferocious defense, and yes, a good performance from place kicker Manuel Holguin.”We were 5-for-5 on PATs. How ’bout them apples with a freshman,” Ramunno said, poking some fun at the Vail Daily’s pregame coverage.

The Devils blow open a close 14-7 game at half with their defense. Battle Mountain started the half with a drive behind running back Ryan Hedrick (23 carries for 144 yards) that seemed destined to tie the game.But Eagle Valley turned back the Huskies three times – including Hedrick twice – from the Devils’ 7-yard line, forcing Derek Byron to kick a 24-yard field goal.”We talked about it all week long,” Ramunno said. “The guy we knew we had to stop was Hedrick. We talked about those front guys, those d-line guys had to get up and get a piece of him. We were trying to hold their line up so our backers could get in. Nick, Brendan and Danner (Bartlett) all had big days because of that. We talked a lot about team defense.”Up just 14-10, Ramunno and company gambled on fourth-and-1 on their own 39. Whitehead rumbled for five, and the momentum of the game turned.”That was something we had to have,” Ramunno said. “We had to have that one right there.”Whitehead rolled another 33 yards on the next play, and capped that drive with a 2-yard plunge to put the Devils out front 21-10.Eagle Valley got great field position on a Hedrick fumble on the Huskies’ 40, but Battle Mountain’s defense held. The Devils punted, yet the ball glanced off a Battle Mountain player and Jordan VanVoorst made the second of two clutch catches on the night as Eagle Valley maintained possession.Eagle Valley kept grinding it on the ground, and Mansfield did the honors from five yards out.”The (punt) bounces a different way it’s a little different for us,” Engle said. “I think that was the bigger play of the game. Eagle ran the ball pretty effectively, and unfortunately, our kids couldn’t stop it.”Battle Mountain rallied briefly through the air with Bart Cuomo finding Travis Landauer and Todd Walker on a few connections. Cuomo called his own number for the Huskies’ last touchdown. Medsker wrapped up the scoring with a scamper of his own.

The game started like it was going to be a track meet. Eagle Valley went 65 yards down the field on its opening possession. Battle Mountain looked like it had stopped the Devils when Mitch Gray wrapped up Whitehead for an 8-yard loss on second-and-11 from the Huskies ’17. But that simply set the stage for highlight reel play of the game. On third-and 19 from the Huskies’ 25, Medsker hung tough in the pocket and found VanVoorst in the corner of the end zone. VanVoorst made a spectacular grab and was able to get one foot down for the opening touchdown.”It was pretty big. It’s nice to get a good start,” Medsker said. “The line gave me a whole lot of time. Jordan was wide open. It was a great catch.”

Battle Mountain responded in kind, sparked by a 45-yard rumble by Hedrick that put the Huskies on the Devils’ 1. The Huskies brought in lineman Punky Carlos for “The Fridge” play, but quarterback Jeremy Windham fumbled the ball, recovered it and scored to tie the game.The Huskies followed with a successful onside kick and seemed posed to take the lead, but the Devils’ defense came up big for the first of many times, stopping the drive at their own 20 on downs.The teams traded possessions, but midway through the second, Eagle Valley’s rushing game started to assert itself. Medsker scored with 4:15 left in the half to give his team the lead for good.

Both teams sit at 3-4 in the Slope entering the final week of the season. Steamboat Springs (6-1) beat Rifle (6-1), 19-9, Friday night in what was likely the league title game. Those two teams are in the playoffs and the Slope’s other two spots are wide open.Eagle Valley hosts Palisade (4-3) at Hot Stuff Friday night at 7. A win plus a Moffat County loss to Rifle and a Delta victory over Glenwood Springs would put the Devils back in the playoffs.Battle Mountain is at Steamboat Springs. The Huskies need a win there plus Rifle beating Moffat and Palisade topping Eagle Valley for their first postseason appearance since 1995.”Anytime we beat Battle Mountain it’s huge for us. … Our kids came up here and played hard,” Ramunno said. “If we could have gotten four quarters out of them in other games, I think we’d have a little different record. It’s good we’re playing tough at the end of the year. I know they’re going to be excited to play Palisade at home next weekend.”After ticking off the myriad of postseason possibilities for his team, Engle summed it up succinctly for Battle Mountain.”We play Steamboat. Week 10 still means something.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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