Huskies football pumped for ’04
EAGLE-VAIL – Before official practices began, the Battle Mountain football team climbed Mount Elbert.The Huskies’ job this season will be to start scaling the 3A Western Slope, after two seasons playing as an independent.”I think it’s the best 3A league in the state,” said second-year coach Pat Engle. “You can say all you want, but there was a potential to have an all-Western Slope final (between Palisade and Steamboat Springs last year). You’ve got five playoff teams in our league with the addition of Eagle Valley. It’s is going to be a dogfight every week.”And it’s workouts like Mount Elbert, an attitude and talent that Engle and company hope will put Battle Mountain football back on the map in 2004, starting with South Park Friday at 7 p.m. at Phelan Field.Shaking the imageFor several years, Battle Mountain football has been caught in a dangerous catch-22. The perception is that Battle Mountain football is bad, so people don’t come out for football. Thus, football is bad because it doesn’t have the numbers.Engle has pounded the Eagle-Vail pavement and has 57 players to start the season, the squad’s best showing in years. Battle Mountain will be starting upperclassmen at every position except for Jamie Hijmans, a sophomore defensive tackle and offensive guard, who lettered as a freshman.
“We started having kids who didn’t play last year come into the weight room in December. We started sparking the interest,” Engle said. “We’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 seniors. Anytime you can put an 18-year-old kid on the field is a good thing versus a 14-year-old kid, which we did a couple times this year. We feel like we’ve done some good work with those kids.”Then, there’s the attitude around the high school. At Homecoming, the team draws a huge crowd and then everyone goes home after the halftime festivities. To put it bluntly, Battle Mountain football has been laughed at by its student body and mocked in the school’s newspaper. “This team is different because we’re not listening to what the people are saying in the halls,” quarterback Derek Rush said. “There’s a lot more numbers. The seniors are really stepping up and the younger kids are trying to step in and make them work for their spot.”It’s so exciting. We’ve been practicing so hard. People just don’t know what’s coming, but it’s coming hard.”Engle has done his part by taking the school’s 1985 2A second-place trophy from the trophy case into his office where all the players can see it every day. “That is our tradition,” Engle said. “There is a tradition in this program of winning and that’s what we’ve got to get back to.”Weights and more weightsHuskies football 2004 began in November 2003. Engle was rounding up 20-25 kids per day to work out in the weight room. The lifting continued in the summer.
“There’s a level of expectation and commitment that’s not been here ever,” Engle said. “Maybe back in 1985, maybe when Bob Isbell was the head coach. We had somewhere in the nature of 30-35 kids make more than 100 workouts. When I got here, working out, no one knew what that meant.”Take tackle and defensive end Ken Roberts.”We’ve worked so hard, the senior said. “Engle came to talk to me in November about weightlifting and we had 30 guys go in there from November through the rest of the school year. Throughout the summer, I went out every day except for three. Those three I was in the hospital.”No worries. Just a little dehydration. The result is that the “lightest” lineman are Roberts, who’s just 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. On the other end of the spectrum is center Ben Smith (6-foot-3, 250) and Zach Steinbach (6-foot-3, 245).The teamRush will be taking the snaps behind center. The junior has an arm and Engle wants to use it. Expect a lot of option with a lot of passing. Rush’s wideouts are Thomas Pacheco, Alex Vu and Phil Van Buren.By ground, it will be bruiser Travis Scholl and the fleet-footed Adrian Martinez. This 1-2 punch will be running behind tackles Steinbach and Roberts, guards Sean Thul and Hijmans and center Smith.
“We can move the ball really, really well,” Rush said. “That’s about all I’m going to say. The line is nice. It’s up to the line. Having good running backs is also a plus. I’ve got a lot of options.”The Huskies will come out in a 4-3 defense with Roberts, Smith, Hijmans and Peter Van Dyke up front. Rush, Josh Andreasen and Mike Garst make up the linebacking corps. In the secondary it’s Martinez, Scholl, Pacheco and Rudy Frausto.”Defense, as Coach always says, we have the 11 baddest people there messing people up,” Roberts said. “We’re just aggressive. We’re not going to promise we’re going to win every game, but we’re going to be the hardest hitting team out there.” Extra points Friday’s game against South Park should be a big draw. Battle Mountain is honoring Pat Phelan and renaming the field for him. There will be a pregame reception at 5:30 p.m. and halftime ceremonies with Jeff Campbell and CHSAA commissioner Bill Reeder. … The Huskies will be fielding JV and C-teams. The hope is that, with the exception of Hijmans, no underclassmen will play varsity. … Eagle Valley moves up to 3A this year, so this year’s grudge match is a league game. It’s Battle Mountain’s Homecoming on Oct 1.Chris Freud is the sports editor of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614, or via email@example.com.Vail Colrado