Devils football ready to turn the page
The last two years have been strange when it comes to Eagle Valley football.
This is year No. 15 for me at the Vail Daily and there simply have been some constants in my world. Battle Mountain soccer is generally very good. The Vail Mountain School rocks in Nordic skiing. And there are programs which aren’t very good. (We don’t need to name them.)
Another constant was Eagle Valley football. The grass was definitely greener on the other side of the street, given that most of the time since 1997 with the exception of the last two years, I covered Battle Mountain football.
Every year, the buzz from Battle Mountain coaches, fans and players was that, “Eagle Valley’s down this year.” And every year, the Devils would nonetheless clobber the Huskies, and go to the 2A or 3A state playoffs in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. As recently as 2008, the Devils were 6-4 and just missed the playoffs.
The last two years have been very lean ones – 1-9 and 2-7, which have included, pardon the expression, two-straight losses to archrival Battle Mountain.
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“If you stay in coaching long enough, things like that happen,” said John Ramunno, who starts his 30th year at the helm of Eagle Valley football tonight when the Devils host Coal Ridge.
“I thought last year we got off to a good start. We were sitting there after Summit and Steamboat (both wins) and played Rifle down to the wire (a 7-6 loss). We had some unfortunate injuries. It’s tough when kids get used to winning. You just can’t hand a kid a plate of confidence.”
The Devils hope that the first course of that meal comes tonight. If there is upside to the last two years, it’s that a lot of underclassmen played. While it wasn’t a barrel of laughs at the time, the Devils now have some serious experience.
The offensive line is a perfect example of that. Eagle Valley returns three starters on that unit and all five saw major amounts of action. Center Roberto Cortez, tackles Joe Felix and Andy Armstrong and guards Satchel Jones and Joey Sanchez hope to blow open some holes for the backfield.
“They work together well as a group and they really want to see other kids be successful,” Ramunno said.
Cole Nielsen is the A-back in the double wing with Rick Ramunno at B-back and Zeke Sandoval as the C-back with Jordan Hudspeth under center. While the formation disguising who has the ball is key, fresh legs also make the Eagle Valley offense go, and the depth looks good here.
Ramunno (John, not Rick) says he’s pleased with the way Hudspeth has stepped up to the position of quarterback, often sticking around after optional summer weight training to work on his reads and his arm.
Sam Boyd, Tyler Epperson and Ayren Hart are all penciled in as tight ends.
On defense, Sanchez, Cortez and Felix will share the two defensive tackles. Dylan Baltierrez, Hart and Armstrong will be three guys for two spots at tackle.
The linebackers are Jones, Ramunno, Jesus Garcia and Andrew Vigil. Jay Dostal is the strong safety, while Nielsen is free. The corners are Sandoval and Boyd with Thomas Mills coming in on the nickel package.
Ain’t it …
While Eagle Valley looks deeper than in years past, the Devils also have to cut down on the turnovers and flags. They buried Eagle Valley last year.
“A lot of it is your concentration,” the coach said. “The kids have to realize that every mistake affects the entire team. You can’t lose concentration. We’ve been emphasizing in practice, ‘You play like you practice,’ and we’ve been focusing on getting better every game.”
The road back for Eagle Valley will not be easy. Coach Ramunno put it well about the 3A Slope when he said, “We play a bunch of schools who take their football seriously.” But this team has a lot to prove.
When covering the team’s 39-28 win against Summit last year, I finally got what the “Ain’t it great to be a Devil” cheer means. Yes, it means, Eagle Valley’s won a football game. It also links the team to its history, which is a great one and important one to its community. Just as VMS soccer players aspire to wear orange in the postseason, just as Battle Mountain whoops it up when it gets to wear gold at state-running events, this is why they play football in Gypsum.
Let’s hope we hear it again often in 2011.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.