First-half dominance puts Devils on top
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM ” It’s worked for them before, and it worked again Friday night.
This time, it just happened to be against their rival.
Eagle Valley broke free for big plays in the first half, taking a 35-6 lead into the break and coming out on top against Battle Mountain, 42-20, at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum.
The Devils haven’t lost to the Huskies since 1997.
“That’s awesome,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said. “I think back to 1985, when they put one up on us, 33-0. So you have your years. But our kids get excited to play Battle Mountain. They do every year. When they see our schedule, they say, ‘When do we have them? We have to wait to Week 9?'”
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Eagle Valley didn’t wait long to build an early lead, scoring on its first four drives.
“Everyone was staying on their blocks, and we were moving the ball well,” Eagle Valley’s Pavel Pavlov said.
“It’s a big-play offense, and that’s what they thrive on,” Battle Mountain’s Ryan Hedrick said.
Eagle Valley’s Nick Whitehead went for more than 200 yards on the ground yet again, scoring four touchdowns. Whitehead’s shortest touchdown run was 23 yards, with others of 37, 40 and 47 yards. On his third tally, which put the Devils up 35-6, Whitehead broke free on third-and-15 and stormed down the right sideline and across the goal line untouched.
The Devils’ Kevin Mansfield, who rushed for more than 100 yards, had the longest play of the game, returning a kickoff 92 yards to put the Devils up 14-6 after Battle Mountain’s Todd Walker found receiver Ascher Robbins in the end zone on a 19-yard strike on the Huskies’ first drive. Mansfield also had a 65-yard touchdown run that was called back for a late hit. Pena Woolsey added a 9-yard run for the Devils.
“We’ve felt like we could run the ball at them and used some power offense,” Ramunno said. “We had a great start and a great first half. Nick had a great game. Kevin ran hard and so did Pena.”
After the half, Battle Mountain came out and scored 14 points in six minutes to cut the lead to 35-20 before the Devils added a final tally.
“There was a big momentum shift there,” Battle Mountain coach Jason Sedlak said. “We scored our first touchdown 82 seconds into the half, then three-and-outted them and got the ball back and scored again.”
The Devils helped the Huskies out, committing several big penalties, one of which gave Battle Mountain the ball back after the Huskies punted.
“We could have done better,” said Eagle Valley’s Pollo Almanza, who had an interception in the first half. “We had way too many penalties. That third quarter was horrible. We just let down way too much.
Battle Mountain mixed things up on offense, with quarterback Jeremy Windham spelling the injured Walker and Hedrick running hard for first downs.
“We haven’t been able to put 48 minutes together yet, but we came out and played the last 24 minutes with great enthusiasm,” said Hedrick, who had a 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. “We started to execute our basic stuff.”
Sergio Sandoval punched the ball in for the Huskies on third-and-goal from the 2, and Battle Mountain stopped Eagle Valley on fourth-and-two on the ensuing drive in Huskies’ territory.
But the Devils got another big run from Whitehead early in the fourth quarter and were poised to score again before a fumble gave Battle Mountain the ball on its own 8-yard line late in the game.
“They played hard in the third quarter and made some plays,” Ramunno said of the Huskies. “They have some good kids ” Hedrick ran the ball hard.”
While Sedlak liked what his team did in the second half, he would have liked to have seen it all game.
“I told the kids if we play in the first half the way we played in the second half, we win the football game,” he said. “We need to execute.”
While Eagle Valley’s offense rolled in the first half, its defense was stifling.
On several occasions, the Devils forced Walker to make quick passes to receivers who were well-covered.
“We were putting the rush on good, so our defensive backs got to make some plays,” Pavlov said.
The Devils had two interceptions in the first half, one going to Trent Book and the other going to Almanza, who got some help from a rushing Pavlov, who hit the quarterback just as he was releasing the ball. Almanza had one sack, while Pavlov had back-to-back sacks to finish off the first half.
“Me and Pollo worked on going inside and outside (on the lineman),” said Pavlov, who also blocked two extra points.
Woolsey led the Devils with nine tackles, followed by teammate Jared Thomson with seven. For the Huskies, R.D. Cordova had a bunch of tackles and an interception, while Josh Kundolf and Kristjan Gannon were in on a bunch of tackles.
Battle Mountain, which has dealt with injuries all season, started six sophomores.
“We’re building here,” Sedlak said. “We have a lot of sophomores and not too many juniors. We’re a young team and not very deep, either. But you’ve got to play with the hand you’re dealt.”
With the win, Eagle Valley improves to 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the 3A Western Slope. On Thursday, the Devils travel to Palisade to close out league play.
“We’ve got to play smart next week,” Ramunno said. “Palisade is a big, physical team.”
The Devils hope to cut down on turnovers against a high-scoring Bulldogs’ squad.
“I think this team can play with anybody if we do things right,” Ramunno said.
Battle Mountain, which fell to 1-6 in league and 1-8 overall, closes out its season at home against Steamboat.
Notes: Eagle Valley kicker Parker Ray was 6-for-6 on extra points, marking the second year in a row an Eagle Valley kicker has been perfect in that category.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at email@example.com or 748-2935.