Devils, Huskies play to 1-1 draw
GYPSUM ” So who’s the winner after a 1-1 tie?
Give Eagle Valley the slight edge after drawing with Battle Mountain by that score Tuesday under the lights at Hot Stuff Stadium.
For the Devils, winless against the Huskies since 1997, it’s certainly a step. It’s even bigger for Eagle Valley in the playoff chase.
“We’re in good shape,” said Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller, whose team moved up 4-4-2 in the 4A Slope and 4-6-2 overall. “We just tied the No. 1 team in our (league), and that puts us as No. 1 against every team we’re going to play against.”
“It’s fine,” said the Devils’ Cesar Castillo, who scored the equalizer in the second half. “What are they ranked? Somewhere up there. We know we’re up there with them.”
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
To the sixth-ranked Huskies, Tuesday was significant in that they came out with a fire conspicuously absent in their last outing against Montrose Friday. Also at 9-0-1 in the Slope and 10-2-1 overall, the Huskies have already wrapped their fourth-straight conference crown.
“It was a great high school event,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “Two teams from the same county went at it. At times, the quality of play was good, and others not, but it’s what’d you’d expect out of a rivalry. If you were to say who’s leaving here a little disappointed, it’s probably us.”
While both teams could make arguments as to why they should have won the game, the scoreboard didn’t lie Tuesday. Battle Mountain dominated the first half, while Eagle Valley had the better play in the second. The Huskies had the ball in Eagle Valley’s end for most of the two 5-minute overtime sessions, but the Devils had the best chance in extra time.
In the first 40 minutes, the Huskies looked much more like themselves than in a lifeless start Friday against Montrose. Battle Mountain linked together passes nicely and sustained possessions, while Eagle Valley was pretty much reduced to playing kickball.
Battle Mountain’s problem was not scoring chances, however, but finishing them. As it turned out, the Huskies got on the board on an own goal, which was credited to Ricky Luevanos.
“As we always say, if you keep the ball in the other team’s end long enough, good things are going to happen,” Cope said. “We had a season’s worth of chances in the first half. I was talking to (assistant coach) Kyle Mercer just before the second half started and we were wondering if this was going to be something that came back and haunted us.”
It did. Eagle Valley came out with renewed intensity and organization in the second half.
“We organized the midfield and got things back into shape,” Rittmiller said. “That’s what controlled the ball in the second half and prevented us from playing boot ball.”
Eagle Valley’s pressure resulted in a free kick from 30 yards out and it was no mystery who was going to get it. Castillo ripped the ball from the left side of the field over Battle Mountain’s wall and into the near side of the net.
“Goal was going through my mind,” Castillo said. “I was concentrating on the ball and making sure I hit it right.”
While Castillo was likely the Man of the Match for Eagle Valley, those honors went to goalie Clint Hervert on the Battle Mountain side. Eagle Valley would have ended it in regulation had it not been for three stellar saves in the closing minutes from the Huskies keeper.
“He was arguably the best player on the field for us tonight.” Cope said, also giving props to fullback Connor Tedstrom.
An extra 10 minutes
With the reprieve from Hervert, Battle Mountain picked up in overtime where it left off in the first half. Battle Mountain possessed well and continued firing shots over the crossbar.
Eagle Valley had OT’s best opportunity. On a counterattack, Castillo got dragged down, and had an indirect kick from 25 yards. The Devils were hoping for a carbon copy of his shot in the second half, but it was just high, dropping tantalizingly on the outside of the net.
Rittmiller understandably liked his chances at that point.
“There are as good as they ever are,” he said. “You always want a goal on that. It’s always a good chance. Sometimes, you get them. Sometimes, you don’t.”
With Battle Mountain in the top spot in the Slope, Eagle Valley helped its cause tremendously with the tie. The Devils moved into third place, one of three guaranteed state berths from the league, one point ahead of Steamboat Springs.
Though the Sailors have a game in hand in the chase, Eagle Valley essentially controls its own destiny with games at Rifle and Glenwood Springs next week. With wins, the Devils would all but be assured of passing Glenwood, currently second at 5-3-1, for a playoff spot.
“We’ve just got to win out,” Castillo said. “We know we can do it. We tied Battle Mountain. We know we can win those last two games.”
Eagle Valley needs the two aforementioned wins, but also needs a little help from its new best friend Battle Mountain. The Huskies host Glenwood Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Vail Athletic Field.
While the Huskies would like to think of themselves as friendly neighbors, Battle Mountain needs a win Saturday to start trending in the right direction again after a loss to Montrose and a tie at Eagle Valley.
“We have a few more games, and we just have to get some momentum going into the playoffs,” Tedstrom said. “We just have to come out strong and get some goals and just win.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.