Forget the numbers, it’s playoffs for the Devils
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM ” Eagle Valley soccer has the best kind of amnesia.
Already, the Devils forgot about some early-season troubles, forgot that they couldn’t win close games on the road and forgot that they weren’t supposed to come back and make the playoffs.
Now it’s time for Eagle Valley to conveniently forget a few more things as it heads to Montrose today for its first-round 4A state playoff match.
For one thing, the No. 25 Devils (6-6-2 overall) won’t lend too much of their attention to their seeding when they hit the field against the No. 8 Indians (12-3).
“I was a little bummed about our seed,” said Eagle Valley defender James McGoodwin “But Montrose isn’t a shoe-in. We really have a chance to play with them and beat them.”
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Montrose knows three of Eagle Valley’s loses are forfeits, and is well aware of the Devils’ 6-0-2 mark down the stretch.
“I think they are a hot team now ” they certainly gave Battle Mountain a scare, and we’re not going to overlook this team,” said Montrose coach Jim Lewis.
With a common opponent of Battle Mountain, the Devils and Indians can use their matchups with the Huskies as a barometer, though they aren’t investing too much into those results. In their two contests, the Devils lost to Battle Mountain on the road, 1-0, then tied them at home, 1-1. Montrose beat Battle Mountain on the road, 3-2, just after the Huskies clinched the 4A Western Slope.
Last season, Eagle Valley played Montrose on the road and lost, 9-0, although neither squad is taking too much stock in that game.
“We had a fresh goalie, a lot of guys out and they were solid,” McGoodwin said. “An they graduated some great seniors. They had three or four phenomenal middles and forwards.”
Eagle Valley first-year coach Jason Rittmiller may not have been there for last year’s matchup, but he knows things have changed. The Indians graduated 12 seniors and the Devils lost four.
“Our team has gotten a lot stronger,” he said.
While the Devils don’t want to revisit that match, they probably wouldn’t mind using it as a bit of motivation
“We’re looking forward to getting a little revenge,” Rittmiller said.
Last season, the Devils used a strong finish to make the playoffs for the first time in three years, but came in as the No. 30 seed with few illusions of their chances.
“You play your hardest, but they are the No. 3 team,” McGoodwin said of Mullen, to whom the Devils lost, 6-0. “We’re taking this game more seriously. We’re a lot different from that team.”
Rittmiller is proud of the strides his squad has taken this season.
“This team has a lot of talent that’s really diverse,” Rittmiller said. “It was a matter of getting everyone to work together as a team. We’ve been working on developing confidence from one player to the next so they can rely on each other.”
And one thing that has helped the Devils, especially down the stretch, is diverse scoring. Devils forward Cesar Castillo has been his dominant self all season, especially in close games against top teams in the league, but then again, so has everyone else.
“Cesar is a very high-level talent, and we learned early on that if he’s the only one playing the ball, we don’t win games,” Rittmiller said.
In the final games of the season, Eleazar Saucedo had a handful of goals for the Devils, while Adrian Aguilar had the game-winning tally against Glenwood that punched the Devils’ ticket to the postseason.
“We have a lot of well-rounded guys who play their positions well,” McGoodwin said. “It’s a big part of the team.
Equally impressive has been the Eagle Valley defense.
“They have been amazing,” Rittmiller said. “They’ve done so well, and I’ll be counting on them (today).”
Along with a strong backline that includes Aguilar, McGoodwin, Israel Gomez and Sage Smith, the Devils have Trevor Grayson in net ” a goalie who can, and often does make game-saving plays.
“I’m glad we have him in goal,” McGoodwin said. “He’s really developed into a phenomenal goalie.”
Early in the season, the Devils had some problems winning games on the road. But after a long home stand that saw Eagle Valley go undefeated, it kept that streak alive on the road for the final two games.
“It’s good to knock two out at the end to remind us they aren’t impossible games,” McGoodwin said.
“I don’t think we’re at a disadvantage playing away,” Rittmiller said. “We can bring our game anywhere.”
Since closing out the regular season, the Devils have approached the playoffs with the same attitude that they approached games in the regular season.
“It’s a mistake to really play it up and get too crazy about it,” Rittmiller said. “At the end of practice (Monday), I told them, ‘tomorrow we decide if we keep on going.'”
McGoodwin, for one, hopes he’ll see a few more days of practice.
“If not, we’ve had a great end of the season,” he said. “But I’d like to keep playing.”
Today’s game kicks off at 4:30 p.m.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com