Huskies football ready for ’05 season
EAGLE-VAIL – The Decleater machine in the wrestling room at Battle Mountain was located a little too far to the right Friday for Huskies football coach Pat Engle’s liking.The high-tech tackle sled needed to be moved a few feet to the left before the team hit the field for practice, so Huskies’ linemen and linebackers just slammed themselves into the blocking dummy time after time, shoving the machine back to the left.Thwap. Pop. Bang.”It’s tough,” Huskies tackle and defensive end Zach Steinbach said. “It goes all the way down to 1,000 pounds. We’ve been hitting that thing at 800 pounds and that’s tough.”The thought is work with the Decleater, as well as a lot of time in the weight room and on the practice field, will be ticket when it come to turning things around for Huskies football in 2005.”We have a lot of good talent out here this year, a lot of good new guys,” junior receiver and corner Travis Landauer said. “We have big kids coming out and it looks good. Guys are just a lot more committed. Everybody’s ready to be here. People are excited, not just because they have to be here.”Battle Mountain broke back into the win column last year with a 2-8 mark after an 0-10 season in Engle’s first year. Three to five wins – a realistic possibility – in 2005 would be another step in the right direction, but don’t try selling Engle on that point.
“The level of success that I would like to see, as opposed to the level of success that would be acceptable here turns my stomach,” Engle said frankly. “Ultimately for our kids, our successes will be measured with the impact we have on them as coaches and the kind of young men they’re going to be. It’s can you win with class and can you lose with dignity? Can you walk off the field – win or lose – with the respect of your opponent. If all we taught them is football, then we’ve failed.”A new lookThe Decleater was a piece of equipment that then-Utah coach Urban Meyer used to grind his charges into shape. That obviously worked as Utah went 12-0 last year and Meyer is now in charge of the Florida Gators.Engle is borrowing another item from Meyer – the spread-option offense. Goodbye, veer offense. The Huskies are going to throw, a rarity in the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust 3A Slope.”Football coaches never invent something new,” Engle said. “They just steal something from 40 years ago and call it something new. We did a lot of talking about what our strengths would be and we came together and put some things down which will work for us.”Bart Cuomo and Jeremy Windham are battling it out for the starting job under center. The Huskies have talented backs to provide balance in Aaron Wilcox and Chad Wilkison. The tight ends fighting for time are Joe Ortega and Mike Janssen. There are plenty of wide receivers in Landauer, Andrew Martinez, TJ Simpson, Travis Roach, Javier Alamos, Todd Walker, Ryan Hedrick, and Ascher Robbins.
Offensive talent is one thing, but that talent can’t get the job done if it’s on its back. So, the good news is that Battle Mountain has some big beef up front. Steinbach’s nailed down one tackle position, while Johnny Wahrer, Freddy Wickes, Ben Sack and Elan Jones are competing for time at the other spot.Engle says that all of those four could see time at guard. Jamie Hijmans will start his third year at guard as a junior. Punky Carlos, all 296 pounds of him, is penciled in at the other guard, but Engle would like to move him to defense exclusively. Look for Mitch Gray and Billy Shue at center. “We’re big. … We’re not small, by any stretch of the imagination,” Engle said. “All summer long with a roster of about 38 kids, we had anywhere from 25-30 kids in weight room per night. The right kids were there and the kids that are playing were there. It’s been a good summer for us weight room-wise.”This was one of many problems last year. The unit gave up more than 30 points per game on average. In the defense’s defense, the Huskies’ D wasn’t helped by the number of short fields produced by Huskies’ turnovers.”We just need to play much better defense,” Engle said. “We’ve spent a lot of time with defense, looking at what we do, how we do it. We evaluated what we did last year and we just felt we did not put our kids in the right spots.”The Huskies will play out of a 4-3 set, but it’s not hard to imagine Battle Mountain putting more into the box against some of the Slope’s more ground-oriented teams.Steinbach is at defensive end. The defensive tackles are Gray and Hijmans. Carlos will serve as the nose tackle. The linebackers are Janssen, Ortega and Hedrick. At safety, look for Simpson and Martinez. The corners are the Travises – Landauer and Roach.
Engle added that Wilkison will see time at linebacker, while Jones, Shue and Wickes will sub on the defensive line.Three questionsThe $64,000 question for Huskies football is health. On paper, Battle Mountain’s starting lineup can be competitive, but the Huskies are not deep. Unlike conference powerhouses Palisade, Moffat and Rifle, Battle Mountain doesn’t have depth chart with experienced players at each position.And, it was health – or lack thereof – which pretty much sank the Huskies last year.”Last year, we were doing just fine until our second leading rusher went out in Game 4 (Mike Garst) and our leading rusher went out in Game 6 (Adrian Martinez),” Engle said. “Everybody says you’re due for something. I just feel like we’re due for some health. If we can stay healthy, I think we can do OK.”In theory, Battle Mountain’s conditioning should address this, but as the doctor’s report goes, so go the Huskies.
Another question relates to turnovers. The Huskies committed a plethora of them last season, seemingly shooting themselves in the foot. Moving away from the veer offense will help, but the Huskies can’t put the ball on the ground 40-plus times as they did last year.The final question is can Huskies football escape the stigma of its past?”Once you start winning, people will look at us and say, “Battle Mountain is a decent team,'” Steinbach said.”We just keep coming out and just keep hitting hard,” Landauer said. “That’s all you can really do. You just have to keep going as hard as you can. We’re going to make a name for ourselves this year.”Just for kicks The Huskies open at South Park on Sept. 3. Homecoming is also the home opener at Phelan Field Sept. 16 against Montezuma-Cortez. … Battle Mountain will host Steamboat Springs Oct. 7 in what should be an emotionally charged game. Battle Mountain’s Hispanic players were the targets of racial epithets before, during and after last year’s contest in Routt County. “Our actions will hopefully speak louder than their words,” Engle said. “We are who we are here in this high school. We want to celebrate what we are which is a diverse group of kids with a tremendous Hispanic heritage, while at the same time, being blended in with a bunch of other kids. We don’t hide from who we are.” … One week before that, though, is a trip to Gypsum for archrival, Eagle Valley. Friday, the Huskies coaches were wearing T-shirts with “28217” on the back of them, as in 28-17, the score by which the Devils won last year’s game. The Huskies already have the Vail Daily’s article previewing Eagle Valley football up in their locker room. … The sound you just heard was Devils coach John Ramunno tacking up this article in his locker room. Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or via email@example.com.
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