Devils enter Round 2 against Mullen
GYPSUM, Colorado” With the perfunctory yelp of “Ain’t it great to be a Devil,” Eagle Valley athletes are definitely living large.
It’s late October and the volleyball team hosts the District 7 Volleyball Tournament Saturday. Devils football, riding a three-game winning streak, heads up to Battle Mountain tonight for the big game,
And Eagle Valley soccer is very much alive and kicking, thank you. Newcomers to this time of year, the No. 8 Devils (13-2-1) host No. 9 Mullen (10-4-2) in the second round of the state playoffs today at 3 p.m. at the Gypsum Sports Complex.
“It’s been pretty intense,” center back Steve White said. “I’ve had a lot of people saying they’re going to come to our game and then go to the football game, that they’re going to be rooting for both teams.”
“It’s what everyone’s been talking about,” Devils coach Jason Rittmiller said. “It’s an exciting time of year. Everyone’s doing exciting stuff and picking which one to go to.”
So just as a public service for Devils fans ” soccer at 3 p.m. in Gypsum, then football at 7 p.m. at Eagle-Vail and go back to Gypsum Saturday for volleyball.
This is Eagle Valley’s first time in the second round of the 4A playoffs, much less being a host. In Mullen, the Devils are facing a team well-versed in playing into late-October and early-November.
In fact, this current crew of Devils remembers the Mustangs. Two years ago, the Devils drew the No. 30 seed and understandably got pasted by No. 3 Mullen, 6-0. While the Mustangs have a different make-up than in 2006, the Devils use that as motivation.
“It’s a big difference from when we played them,” said Eagle Valley senior goalie Trevor Grayson, who was a sophomore in that game. “We were all freshman and sophomores. We were looking at pictures of that game and we were all tiny kids at the time.”
Now the Devils are 4A Slope champs, and coming off a 2-1 first-round win against Evergreen Wednesday, and those young kids in the pictures are veterans.
Mullen enters today’s game after dusting Fort Morgan, 6-0, and is a formidable nine seed. The Mustangs often get seeded in odd places because they play in the 5A Centennial League and drop down to 4A for the playoffs. Last year, Mullen was the 23rd seed and went to the state finals.
The Mustangs finished fourth in their 5A league with a 2-3-2 record. Their losses came to Arapahoe, Cherry Creek and Grandview ” Nos. 4, 16 and 20 in the 5A state bracket.
“When you play the Arapahoes, the (Cherry) Creeks and the Grandviews, you’re playing in a real physical league,” Mustangs coach Sean Keefe said. “In addition to being physical, you’re playing big teams with fast, quick, sharp players who are all well-coached. For us to go up against competition like that in the regular season is a measuring stick.”
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Nick Brant leads the Mustangs with 14 goals, while Ryan Platz has nine goals and four helpers. Jared Roberts and Nick Canham are also among Mullen’s scoring threats. Goalie Phillip Rendell back-stops a stingy defense.
And Eagle Valley’s goal-scoring machine Cesar Castillo (40 goals) needs no introduction.
“We respect him and give credit to the guys around him who are able to slot the ball through to him,” Keefe said. “Rather than to de-emphasize his skills, which are obvious, it’s important to emphasize your own game. We have nothing but respect for him. He’s obviously a very talented player.”
Castillo will likely draw plenty of attention as he has all season. The Devils will counter with the Escobars (Marco, Nester and Kevin), Gonzalo Gomez and David Shea to provide offensive balance.
“We have really great other players,” White said. “It’s not only Cesar. We have a lot of strong individual players who have talents, but we’re best when we’re a team working together.”
The Devils got one of their biggest crowds in recent memory Wednesday against Evergreen, and will enjoy home field today.
The Devils literally have home cooking on their side as they had a team dinner Thursday night with sloppy joes from Grayson’s mom and enchiladas, courtesy of Castillo’s mother.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs make the first of two treks to Gypsum ” the volleyball team is coming up for Saturday’s tournament.
“It’s funny,” Keefe said. “We really look forward to getting the guys together, traveling on the bus, eating together and being a team. A much as we appreciate hosting games, we like to bunker in and focus on what needs to be accomplished. The neat thing about heading up there is that we know the mountain schools are great soccer communities.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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