Game on: Huskies vs. Devils
Imitation is sincerest form of flattery, we suppose.
Even among the most bitter rivals.
So imagine the surprise during Week 1 of the high school football season back in early September when Battle Mountain football started running a double-wing offense.
Yes, the double-wing is not new, but around these parts, that’s Eagle Valley’s offense, John Ramunno’s offense. And why the heck are the archrival Huskies running it?
So since both the Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain defenses see it in practice every day, they’ll know what’s coming when the Huskies call on the Devils Friday night at 7 at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum in their annual grudge match.
We actually had four public high schools here in the late 50s – the Eagle Eagles, the Gypsum Pirates, the Minturn Panthers and the Red Cliff Bulldogs – according to evhsathletics.com, with the western schools becoming Eagle Valley and the eastern ones Battle Mountain.
“Battle Mountain became our new nemesis (hasn’t changed much??),” the website says.
Every fall, winter or spring, regardless of the sport, it’s a big deal when the two schools get together. And in football, it’s a very big deal. (During this fall’s volleyball matches, the Huskies faithful has broken out the “Wait ’til football” chant and whoever wins Friday night will be able to use the “Just like football” cheer for basketball games.)
This has been a nonconference game – Eagle Valley traditionally has been the smaller school as far as student size until the most-recent CHSAA cycle. Often, this game was the opening game of the year because the Devils and Huskies played in different leagues.
In 2000 and 2001, the two teams didn’t play a regular-season game since the 2A Devils played a nine-game season in a 10-team Western Slope. Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain met in highly-attended preseason scrimmages. (CHSAA rules dictate that no one keeps score in a scrimmage. But who was anyone kidding there?)
The teams have met when they were winless – in 1998, they were a combined 0-16 coming into the game with the Devils winning. It’s rare that the two teams meet when they’re both good.
Picking Ramunno’s brain, the Devils took a 17-0 lead in 1984 and held off the Jeff Campbell-led Huskies, 17-14. The next year, the squads played with the winner going to the playoffs – Battle Mountain won 34-0, as Campbell and company made their run to the state finals.
The last time both teams made the playoffs was 1994 – the Huskies in 3A; the Devils in 2A, and Eagle Valley won the nonconference game.
Eagle Valley dominated the rivalry from 1998-2008, winning 10 games in row over Battle Mountain as well the aforementioned scrimmages. Battle Mountain won, 14-7, in 2009 and 27-13 one year ago.
The bottom line is that this is the game that the players remember – for a long time.
• I pull into town in September 1997 and watch a replay of Eagle Valley at Battle Mountain, played the previous weekend at the Comfort Inn in Avon. I talk to my sports editor, telling him not to tell me who won the game. Huskies win 14-13 in OT. I have no idea that this rivalry is going to become such a big part of my life.
• In 2002, the Devils throttle the Huskies and Ramunno puts in some freshman named Sean Matheson. I see him run for a score and think, “Boy, he’s really fast.”
• OK, in 2006, we think the game is going to be close. So Ian Cropp writes “Why the Devils will win,” and I write “Why the Huskies will win.” I list the Devils’ kicking game as a potential problem spot. Eagle Valley rolls, 35-16,
“We were 5-for-5 on PATs. How ’bout them apples with a freshman,” are the first words out of Ramunno’s mouth when we start the postgame, referring to Manuel Holguin, who gets carried off the field.
Sidenote No. 1: Nice to see everyone reads the paper.
Sidenote No. 2: If you think this indicates bias on my part, forget it. A year later, it was Red Sox-Rockies in the World Series and we did a similar column setup. Cropp, a diehard Boston fan, obviously took the Red Sox, while I got to write why the Rockies were going to win. (You might have noticed in the last 15 years, I like the San Francisco Giants, so writing nice things about the Rockies was hard, but I did it. I get paid regardless of the winner of anything.)
• In 2009, Battle Mountain’s Colby Childers says, “We beat Eagle Valley” in the form of a question. Such is the disbelief that the Huskies have broken their skid against the Devils.
• Just as Eagle Valley was favored going into most of these games for the better part of the last decade, the Huskies are likely the pick Friday. The Huskies are 8-1, while the Devils are 1-7. (By the way the last time Eagle Valley went to the playoffs in 2005, the Devils loss of the season was to Rifle by one point. Sound familiar, Battle Mountain?)
Just know that Eagle Valley will put everything into this game. If the Devils win, their record for 2011 will go down as 1-0 – all the losses and even the Steamboat win at Homecoming will be forgotten. And though the Huskies would still be playoff-bound even with a loss to the Devils, that would be a ghastly blemish.
• While both teams will run often out of their double-wings, who passes? Both teams can run play action out of that formation. Don’t be surprised if either team produces big plays through the air.
• Turnovers: They’re big in any game. They’re very big in a rivalry game. The Huskies were plus-4 in 2009, their first win since 1997. (Not a coincidence.)
• Trickeration: Since when did this become a word? (And I still hate the R-O-W-D-I-E chant.) Don’t be surprised if either team empties the bag here. Eagle Valley’s playing its Super Bowl and the Huskies need to sharpen for the postseason.
Enjoy the game.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.