Eagle Valley set for playoffs
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado ” Eagle Valley is in unfamiliar territory.
Normally at this time of year, the Devils are preparing to play spoiler against a highly-ranked opponent in their playoff opener. Last year, Eagle Valley traveled to Montrose as the No. 25 seed.
This season the tables are turned. Eagle Valley ” the No. 8 seed ” is hoping to stave off an upset bid from the No. 25 seed, Evergreen, today when the two teams meet in Gypsum.
“We’re pretty excited,” Eagle Valley senior Trevor Grayson said. “All the guys are pumped up. They are letting school out early for us. We are ready to play in front of a home crowd.”
Evergreen (7-5-3) could test Eagle Valley. The Panthers play in the perennially tough Jefferson County League, where teams like Summit County and Golden are playoff regulars. Golden is the only common opponent for the two teams, with the Devils winning, 3-0, and Evergreen falling, 4-2.
“Evergreen has a really strong offense,” said Grayson, who will be in net for the Devils. “Our midfield is going to come in real handy. They are going to be up striking, then fall back for defense. The closer to you get to Denver, the better the teams get. They all have the club players, and they have good athletes.”
Since the Panthers are somewhat of an unknown for Eagle Valley, the Devils are sticking with what’s worked all season and not changing its game plan for today’s game. Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller researched Evergreen online, but that’s pretty much the extent of what Eagle Valley knows about the Panthers.
“We are looking to play our best game the way we play it,” Rittmiller said. “I’m not really planning on changing anything for them. I did some research on them, and it doesn’t look like they have anyone in particular that stands out too strong.”
Of course, Eagle Valley (12-2-1) possesses plenty of its own weapons. One of those players is reigning Slope League Player of the Year, Cesar Castillo. All he’s done this season is score 38 goals, pushing his career total to a whopping 102.
“That’s what’s great about the playoffs,” Grayson said. “You don’t know a lot about the teams that you are playing. When they come here, they won’t know how good Cesar is until they actually play him. They’ll hear about his goals, but they won’t know how to handle him.”
A key to the Devils’ postseason success, though, will be the other 10 players wearing white, black and red. With all the attention opposing defenses pay Castillo, the senior does an excellent job of finding open teammates. Late in a match at Glenwood Springs on Oct. 9, Castillo found Nester Escobar for a game-tying goal that helped push Eagle Valley to its first Slope title.
Nester is joined by his twin brother, Kevin, and his older brother, Marco, in the Devils’ lineup. The trio clearly possess a chemistry with one another.
David Shea is also a beneficiary of Castillo’s passing. Halfway through the year, Rittmiller moved Shea up to his natural forward position to team with Castillo. The results were evident right from the start. Both Shea and Castillo scored a hat trick against Moffat County in only their second game of playing forward together.
The offensive firepower isn’t Eagle Valley’s only strength. Led by goalkeeper Trevor Grayson, the defense should also make a significant impact in today’s match. Grayson is excited to have one of the Devils’ defensive stalwarts back from injury. Senior Steve White returns for the Devils after sitting out the past two weeks.
“Our confidence just boosts when (White) is in there,” Grayson said. “I don’t know why, but he is just a confidence-booster.”
Grayson also gives credit to the Eagle Valley offense for helping the defense improve throughout the year. That’s bound to happen when going against Castillo and company everyday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. today at the Gypsum Sports Complex.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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