Devils to host Bulldogs for league title |

Devils to host Bulldogs for league title

Ian Cropp
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyEagle Valley's Tyler Conway, left, works on a tackling drill with Nick Whitehead Thursday in Gypsum.

GYPSUM – “You couldn’t have scripted it any better than this,” said Eagle Valley football player Cody Comerford Thursday.The script to which Comerford is referring is the end of the Devils regular season. After a 1-1 start, the No. 5 Devils have gone undefeated, and tonight at 7 face No. 2 Palisade at Hot Stuff Stadium for the league championship.While a win will give the Devils a title, they also hope to gain a little more.”We’ve been having some disputes with former Eagle Valley players, who were saying their team senior year was better than our team now,” said Kylan Kottenstette. “They said they are still waiting for us to do something.”Even coach John Ramunno has extra incentive to beat Palisade – his brother Joe built up the program there, winning four straight state titles before becoming the head coach of Mesa State College in 1997. Palisade won five in a row from 1994-1998 and won again in 2003.”My dad and I would go watch them and I was always supporting Palisade, but now it’s a different deal,” Ramunno said.Last year Eagle Valley lost to Palisade, 56-34, in what some of the Devils describe as their best game last year.”Our defense just couldn’t stop them,” Kottenstette said.

This year, Eagle Valley is focusing in on stopping the Palisade offense at its origin.”The defensive line will be key,” Ramunno said. “We can’t get backed off into our linebackers – we need to hold our ground.”Speed meets sizeEagle Valley, with running back Sean Matheson clocking a 4.5 40, and quarterback Michael Medsker clocking a 4.61, has used speed to break for big plays all season. It also helps that they have a cadre of offensive weapons.”They’ve got two guys, but we have four or five who can run, and a quarterback who can run,” Kottenstette said.Among Matheson, Medsker, Harvey, Kenny Slaughter and Comerford, the Devils have options galore when running the ball.Palisade has Jason Popick, the 3A leading rusher, in the backfield, leading a power attack.

“Their claim to fame is ‘We’re going to come off the ball and punch you and knock you back,'” Ramunno said. “It’s power football.”Defensive lineman Chris Harvey knows what he, and fellow linemen Louis Romersheuser, Will Britt, Brandon Best and Zac Thrall need to do to stop the run.”We need to fill the holes so they can’t get through, and our linebackers can get in there,” Harvey said.With both teams boasting staunch defenses, it could be a low-scoring game that would benefit the team making fewer mistakes.”Last week at Glenwood, we didn’t have one turnover and only had one penalty,” Ramunno said. But if the game turns into an offensive battle, Ramunno still likes his team’s chances.”I hope it doesn’t turn into a track meet, but we’ve got some kids who are pretty good at track,” Ramunno said.Four quarters

The Devils are excited at the prospect of playing a full game against a strong opponent.”We haven’t put together a whole football game yet this year,” Harvey said. “I think we are the best-conditioned football team in the Western Slope.”Kottenstette is happy with offensive line’s speed and endurance.”Wednesday night, our offensive line ran 24 hills, and last year at this time, I don’t think we were running 15,” Kottenstette said.And come the fourth quarter, Ramunno hopes the Devils’ running game will still be pumping full throttle.”We’ll have to get some guys outside with speed,” Ramunno said. “We want to make their big guys run.”Palisade will likely stack the defensive line, running a 5-3, and used one or two ends to force the Devils running game inside.This season, the Devils are undefeated at home, and have started every game with early scores. They look for this trend to continue against Palisade.

“Hopefully, they’ll get down on themselves if we take the lead,” Kottenstette said.Where would you rather be?Thursday night, the middle school feeder for Eagle Valley, the Fighting Eagles, caught the tail end of the Devils practice. Most of the Devils made their way through the system, looking up to playing under the Friday night lights.”Ever since you are little, you can’t wait to play in the games, and it all works up to this,” Comerford said.And it’s not just the players who love the game.”This summer, I went to my 30th high school reunion and some of my best friends from high school asked, ‘Why would you stay in coaching?'” Ramunno said. “You can’t replace my Friday nights. There is a level of excitement that is second to none. The kids give you everything they’ve got, and that’s so special.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or

Support Local Journalism