Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain renew rivalry | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain renew rivalry

SPT EVFB 02 TS 08-29-08

EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” Most rivalries feature close games, spirited fans and an even bigger will to win.

Well, two-out-of-three isn’t bad. Tonight’s Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley football game doesn’t hit on all of the big game attributes, but that doesn’t mean the matchup lacks appeal.

“There’s one you can rest assured of, Battle Mountain always give us its best game,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said. “Last year, they really played a good second half. The score was 42-20, but they got it going in the second half, and really took advantage of some of our mistakes.”

The Devils (3-5, 3-3) are winners of eight-straight over Battle Mountain, after a two-year hiatus of the series in 1998-99. The Huskies (0-8, 0-6) haven’t beat Eagle Valley since 1997, but things are different in Eagle-Vail this year.

David Joyce took over head coaching duties from Jason Sedlak this season. One of the first things he did was install an option rushing attack. After struggling to make the correct reads in their first handful of games, the Huskies are now starting to grasp fully Joyce’s offense. Battle Mountain is averaging 11 points per game, but earlier this season, it put 31 on the board against Moffat County.

“The defense could make one little adjustment the first couple of games and it would really hinder us,” Joyce said. “Now, we’re to the point where there is no adjustment a defense can make that we don’t know, that we can’t adjust too.”

Quarterback Parke Robbins is Battle Mountain’s biggest weapon on offense. The dual-threat junior is probably more dangerous with his legs, than his arm. When Robbins hands it off, look for Jon Simpson to pick up yardage. Backup QB Jake Engle is a threat to throw the ball when he enters the game.

Injuries have hurt the Huskies on the defensive side of the ball, but Joyce said the team is still playing hard. Unfortunately, that hasn’t equaled results. Battle Mountain gives up 44 points per game, including 115 points combined in losses to Steamboat Springs and Rifle the past two weeks.

“The last two games, we’ve struggled defensively,” Joyce said. “Part of that is because Steamboat is really good. Part of that was because three our best defensive players are injured for the year. We are replacing them with underclassmen. They are stepping up to the task, but they are just young. Physically, they are not there yet compared to the guys who were.”

Eagle Valley fighting back to .500

The Devils certainly won’t make it easy for Battle Mountain to get its first win of the season. Since starting the year 0-5 against a brutal schedule, Eagle Valley is playing inspired football. In their last three games, the Devils are 3-0, evening their Slope record to 3-3 ” good enough for fourth place in the standings.

One reason for Eagle Valley’s recent success is a bevy of running backs to whom Ramunno can feed the ball. The group is led by Harrison Neal, who is averaging 92 yards, and a touchdown the last two weeks.

“We’re really lucky ” since the break, we’ve been able to spread it out with different kids,” Ramunno said. “Harrison’s been really solid. Brian Carrillo stepped us last week, and made some good runs. John Crawford’s been steady all year at fullback. Matt Morgan runs it well too. It’s nice have four or five guys you can run with.”

Morgan also does damage through the air. When he drops back to pass ” which isn’t often ” his favorite target is Robert Padgett. The two hooked up for 141 yards and a touchdown in a 44-21 win over Moffat County on Homecoming.

Don’t forget the big boys up front. The improvement of the offensive line has helped the Devils improve their scoring average to more than 19 points per game.

“I think our offensive line has been staying on blocks, and giving (the running backs) some good holes to run through,” Ramunno said. “We ask everybody in our offense to block. Even our quarterback blocks on some plays.”

Defensively, the Devils seem to improve each week. Facing a shotgun attack last week against Montezuma-Cortez, Eagle Valley allowed just three points in a 23-3 win. The Panthers gained only 200 yards of total offense in the loss.

“I think to start with, that guy on level one there, Clayton Gerard has been solid all year for us at defensive end, making a lot of tackles,” Ramunno said. “Crawford at linebacker has been solid. I thought our DBs did a good job last week in coverage. Another guy who did a good job is Brian Carrillo, who came up and made some big hits.

“Defensively, yeah, we were really proud of our effort last week.”

Both teams fired up

Players from both teams should be familiar with the other. The two sides grew up playing each other as far back as middle school. Now, both are anxious for tonight’s intense atmosphere.

“We’re expecting big things,” Joyce said. “We’re expecting to come out and surprise a lot of people (tonight). Not many people expect much out of us. Our guys are excited, to say the least, to get a chance at Eagle Valley.”

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.

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