Fall season gone, Vail Valley football teams look ahead
Snow games, anyone?
There should be football tonight.
It’s gotten cooler in the last week or so. The leaves are turning and there is the instinctual call of going to a high school football game at 7 p.m., whether it’s players, coaches, fans or silly sports writers.
“I think the weekends are maybe the weirdest,” Vail Christian coach Tim Pierson said. “I’m not tied up with 10 different things — a game, scouting, exchanging films.”
Of course, the novel coronavirus had other plans and high school football has been moved from the fall to Season C, a new CHSAA term.
Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Vail Christian will kick off on March 5 with seven-game schedules, instead of 10 contests.
“It’s hard,” Devils coach Gabe Brown said. “Last Saturday, we were supposed to be playing (Thomas Jefferson). We should be getting ready to play Mead. It’s hard to wrap my mind around it.”
And, thus, we have rare agreement between archrivals Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley football — everything is off-kilter.
“I’m on my way to practice. That’s keeping me sane,” Huskies coach Jim Schuppler joked. “We should have had a game already. It’s bizarro.”
All three teams are in agreement in understanding why football has been shifted to March. They appreciate that a global pandemic takes precedence over their passion.
It’s just a major, mind-shaking adjustment. All three of these coaches have had a football season this time of year as players or coaches, dating back to when they were kids.
Of course it was a major disappointment when CHSAA announced the move of the season last month.
“I think it would be harder if we had a bunch of seniors,” said Pierson, whose team went 10-1 last year and made the state quarterfinals. “Our special senior season was last year. It’s all new for us. It’s grooming and player development and we’re all in this together. It would be hard with seniors.”
And that brings the spotlight right back to Gypsum, where the Devils were 5-5 last year and returning a whole bunch of seniors with big expectations.
“Our seniors are doing really well,” Brown said. “They mourned the loss of the (fall) season, and then we reframed (the season). Eight of our 13 seniors are captains on the team, and they’ve put in a lot of work.”
The Devils, Huskies and Saints did practice this summer and continue to do so during this weird autumn, be it on the field or in the weight room.
“We’ve been really trying to be appreciative,” Schuppler said of his Huskies. “We’ve had an average of 35 kids out here four days a week. We don’t want to throw this away because the season was moved.”
And those new schedules are out:
• Devils: Niwot, Conifer, Battle Mountain, Glenwood, Palisade, Summit and Steamboat Springs.
• Huskies: Aspen, Basalt, Eagle Valley, Glenwood, Palisade, Summit and Steamboat Springs.
• Saints: Gilpin County, Hayden, Plateau Valley, Rangely, Soroco and West Grand and an nonconference foe to be determined.
• And not that anyone is wondering, Battle Mountain is at Eagle Valley on March 26.
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind when football was shifted to March and April was, “Don’t you know it snows up here?”
If everyone is walking around dazed in the autumn in the football community, they’re probably going to be excited by the concept of snow games this “spring.”
Schuppler immediately recalled that his favorite game at Elcho High School in Wisconsin was naturally a whiteout. Brown grew up in neighboring Minnesota, so he’s ready. And Pierson rightly pointed out of the opposition, “They have to play in it, too.”
And all involved are doubtless thrilled that artificial turf fields made their debut in 2009 in Eagle County.
Will it happen?
The coronavirus went mainstream on March 11 when the NBA started what would be a pro/college/high school sports shutdown. Six months ago, no one would have predicted that baseball would have a 60-game season, the NBA and NHL playoffs would be played in bubbles in September and October and that the college-football landscape would be completely changed.
So trying to predict what everything will look like in six months is probably a fruitless exercise.
Nonetheless, when asked if there’d be a season, Pierson said, “I have no idea, yet we have to plan if there is one.
“There are so many variables — the election, a possible vaccine, society’s comfort level, medical treatment, how we do as we open schools now. If the cases continue to go down, there’s a good chance.”