Eagle Valley football keeps it old-school | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley football keeps it old-school

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT EVHS Football 1 DT 8-19-08

GYPSUM, Colorado ” The Eagle Valley football team is old-school.

The Devils don’t run the spread offense or use a gimmicky pistol snap. Instead, Eagle Valley prefers to line up and beat its opponent using a physical, double-wing rushing attack.

“It’s a lot of hard football ” just pounding it down the field,” Eagle Valley captain Trent Book said. “When we play Steamboat or Palisade, we just have collisions. There isn’t a lot of passes, it’s just head-on. There is no finesse, it’s about who’s tough enough.”

Eagle Valley gets another chance to show off the retro-look on Saturday when the Devils open their 2008 campaign at Class 2A powerhouse Faith Christian.

‘I’m real excited to get started,” Book said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for senior year. Finally, it’s here. We have to step it up.”

The key to Eagle Valley’s success this season hinges on its unique offense. The double-wing isn’t obsolete, but the talking heads on ESPN definitely aren’t shouting its praises. The formation features four backs ” including the quarterback ” who are a threat to run the ball on every play. No player lines up more than five-seven yards away from the snap.

“We pack everybody in tight and play it in a phone booth,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said.

The offense gives opposing defenses fits. Since, the Devils are the only team in the Western Slope League to run the formation, it’s tough for teams to prepare for it during a short practice week. Ramunno started using the offense in 2000 with great success.

Defensive coordinators could be left searching for more answers this season. Eagle Valley returns a strong core of offensive linemen, including captains Pollo Almanza and Zak Thrall. Quarterback Matt Morgan and the running backs aren’t too shabby, either.

“We have a bunch of running backs that can rotate in,” Almanza said. “We’ll have a lot of fresh guys. We have quick backs, hard-hitting backs.”

Whatever opponents come up with to slow down the Devils’ attack, it’s likely Eagle Valley will still score points.

Defense returns speed, size

The double-wing offense won’t be Eagle Valley’s only weapon this season. The Devils’ defense returns five starters from last year’s 6-4 squad. The defensive backfield is loaded with three players who possess starting experience.

“Our defense is going to be real strong this year,” Book said. “We have a lot of kids that have started. We have a lot of experience, that’s good, it helps out a lot.”

Harrison Neal and Robert Padget will join Book in the secondary for the second year in a row, making Eagle Valley a seasoned bunch. That’s important in the talented Western Slope League.

“We have a lot of depth back there,” Ramunno said. “That’s probably one of the best things we have going for us.”

In the trenches, Thrall and Almanza lead Eagle Valley’s “50” defense. Inside linebacker John Crawford ” also a captain ” solidifies the front seven.

Tough opening slate

When Ramunno first glanced at the 2008 schedule, the 28-year coach wondered what he did to deserve such a brutal opening stretch. The Devils start with Class 2A playoff fixtures Faith Christian and Olathe. The start of the conference schedule is even tougher.

Eagle Valley plays the top three teams in last year’s Western Slope standings in consecutive weeks. The Devils travel to Glenwood Springs, host Palisade and then are back on the road to face Steamboat Springs. Glenwood Springs and Steamboat will test Eagle Valley’s secondary with their talented quarterbacks. Palisade is likely to try and run over the Devils with its physical running game.

Making Eagle Valley’s task to return to the playoffs even harder this season is a new rule. Only three teams from the Western Slope League are guaranteed playoff spots.

Fortunately, Eagle Valley had more time to prepare for the opening game this season. The team started practice on Aug. 4 and before Saturday’s opener, the Devils will have held eight two-a-day practices. The team will need all the extra work if it wants to reach its playoff aspirations.

“This year we want to make it all the way to Novemeber,” Almanza said. “We want to win a lot of games.”

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

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