Eagle Valley seniors getting their due

All eyes were on Eagle Valley senior lineman Devin Ward (74) all season. He's one of the Devils' three first team all-league selections.
Anthony Thornton | Daily file photo |

Huskies football coming

In a highly scientific proceess, we flipped a coin to see which local 3A football team would go first when it came to postseason honors. Check out Sunday’s paper for a rundown of Battle Mountain football’s all-leaguers.

GYPSUM — So what’s the best way to sum up the six Eagle Valley football all-league selections?

Of course, we leave it to coach John Ramunno.

“They got to stand at the middle of the a football field, and chant, ‘Ain’t it great to be a Devil?’ 20 times in three years,” the coach said.

All seniors, these Devils not only survived the best league in 3A, they excelled in it with two playoff berths in three years.

These seniors were 7-4 in 2014, including a 4-4 record in the Conference of Death. Yes, the Devils did beat Battle Mountain in Week 2, a mandatory function of the rivalry from the western point of view in Eagle County, but the biggest win of the year likely came against Delta. Not only were the Panthers a state semifinalist last year, but the Panthers have had Eagle Valley’s number recently, finding ways to win against Devils in bizarre ways.

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That win propelled the Devils to the playoffs, and one of the heroes of that game senior Buck Ortiz, whose leg was broken during the playoff game at Roosevelt two weeks ago, was on hand on Thursday when coach Ramunno handed out the hardware.

Two-way stars

Linebacker and wing back Luis Chavez is a very deserving all-league pick. He had 126 tackles, a team high.

“He had a great nose for the football,” Ramunno said. “When we didn’t have him at full speed, you could tell the difference in our team. He’s a heads up football player.”

At full speed — Chavez rolled his ankle against Palisade during Week 9 — when he wasn’t tackling everyone in sight, he was highly effective on counter plays coming out of the backfield on counter plays.

Speaking of Eagle Valley’s ground game, Riley Rowles led the Devils with more than 1,200 yards in rushing. The senior all-league pick was a load to tackle. That was never more critical than against Grand Junction Central during the final game of the regular season.

Eagle Valley was banged up and had to ride Rowles, who played both linebacker and defensive end on the other side of the ball. He delivered with a 200-yard-plus performance in a 21-20 win.

“We were so gifted in the backfield that we could have guys carry the ball 10-12 times,” Ramunno said. “At the end of the year, we were down to only a few backs against Central and he came through.”

Whether it was Chavez or Rowles or anyone else pounding the rock, they were running behind all-league lineman Devin Ward.

“Devin’s got great leverage,” said Ramunno, who was a lineman during his playing days. “… He’s a fun kid to coach. He’s a competitor. He doesn’t like to come out of a game. When he’s dinged up, he wants to stay in there.”

It was a good thing Ward didn’t come out of a game because he was second on the team in tackle in defense and led the team with 11 sacks.

And we hear he’s a pretty good wrestler. Look for him on a mat near you this winter.

Aguilar, a familiar name, and X-Man

The number of spots a team gets for postseason awards corresponds to the standings, so there are always a few unfulfilled wishes. Ramunno said that he would have liked to see Aguilar as a first-teamer, but his value to the Devils was not diminished by being an honorable-mention choice.

Aguilar was a rarity in the 3A Slope, a superb cover corner back. And he is fast.

“He looks like he’s running the 200 meters when he’s coming around the corner,” Ramunno said.

Mike Ramunno, the coach’s youngest son, got the honorable-mention nod as a safety and wide receiver. As a reminder, no coach may vote for his or her own players, and, what’s more, coach Ramunno’s arm is a testament to how hard Mike worked.

“Ever since he was a kid, I couldn’t throw him enough passes,” Dad said. “Even when it was snowing out there, he still wanted to go out there and catch balls.”

Xavier Mendoza, aka X or X-Man at Eagle Valley, is an honorable mention, having played on the line next to Ward on both sides of the ball and also kicked for the Devils.

“He was in the weight room every night,” Ramunno said. “He added strength. He was one of our better blockers up front. When we needed it, we always called something toward Devin’s and Xavier’s side.”

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