Huskies open at Aspen tonight
EAGLE-VAIL ” Two games in eight days summed up Battle Mountain football last year.
At Glenwood Springs, the Huskies trailed the Demons, 20-9, at the half. Battle Mountain came back to win, 30-27, something that Huskies teams of recent years could never do, much less on the road.
A week later, the Huskies with a 4-1 record hosted Rifle for Homecoming in a game with league-title implications ” another inconceivable concept recently. The Bears ran over the Huskies, 32-0.
Battle Mountain flashed its potential in 2006 with a 4-6 record, its best since 2000, yet when push came to shove could not compete with the upper echelon of the rugged 3A Slope.
So under new coach Jason Sedlak, who takes the reins from Pat Engle, the Huskies look to make the next step in 2007, starting with tonight’s opener at Aspen at 7.
“I really believe you’ve got to keep chopping,” Sedlak said. “You’ve got to earn it every single day. You either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.”
The Huskies are going to look a lot different on both sides of the ball come kickoff tonight. The power-I is out, a one-back, four-receiver formation in its place.
“The ball’s going to be spread across the field and we’re going to use space to our advantage,” Sedlak said. “I think this year, as opposed to previous years, we have a decent amount of speed. We’ve got some kids who can move.”
Todd Walker will run the offense behind center, and will have some help when Jeremy Windham returns in mid-September. Ryan Hedrick, who was all-league last year with 196 carries for 1,332 yards and 12 touchdowns, will see most of the action at running back.
And he likes what he’s seen in practice.
“The offense is great,” Hedrick said. “It’s very simple, but complex at the same time. It gets the job done. The passing offense will keep everyone honest. We’re not one-dimensional this year.”
Sophomore Josh Kundolf will spell Hedrick at running back as well as see time as a wideout. Sergio Sandoval and Spencer Currie will also carry the ball on the ground.
Ascher Robbins, Kyle Woolley, Kristjan Gannon and Parke Robbins are the starting wide receivers.
Billy Shue anchors the front line at right tackle with Mason Babcock on the other side. Lucas Brown and Chase Olle are the guards and Wes Stephens is the center.
Sedlak’s thinking is that Battle Mountain is not traditionally a big team in the Slope, and that a passing game can put work in the run-happy league.
On defense, the Huskies are also changing their front, going from a 50 set to a 4-3.
“The 4-3, a lot of people look at it and say, ‘You’ve only got seven people in the box,”” Sedlak said. “We want to play it aggressively as possible. I think it gives you more speed on the field. We can get some run support in different ways and get some pressure as well.”
Shue will be at defensive end with Sandoval and Stephens rotating on the other side. Brown and Donnie Cuomo are the tackles. Currie will lead the linebacking corps with Gannon and R.D. Cordova. The Robbins’ brothers are at the corners and Walker, Hedrick and Kundolf will share time at safety.
The primary concern for Battle Mountain will be health. With players going both ways, the Huskies are thin.
“My three biggest concerns are depth, conditioning and health, and they’re all related,” Sedlak said. “What we’re going to do is try to find three solid players to play two positions on a field or find five defensive linemen to play four spots. We’re going to get a rotation in there.”
This is especially important given Battle Mountain’s schedule. The Huskies play half of the Rocky Mountain News’ preseason top 10 in No. 1 Palisade, No. 3 Steamboat Springs, No. 6 Rifle, No. 8 Glenwood Springs and No. 10 Summit (nonconference).
“Yes, it is a tough league, but at the same time, my coach used to say, ‘If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.’ That’s what we want to work toward.” Sedlak said. “We play in the toughest conference in 3A football. It’s going to make it worth it that much more if we can make it to that level.”
Not in the top 10, but likely as important as all five games combined is Week 9, when the Huskies head down to Gypsum to face archrival, Eagle Valley. While the Huskies are focused on the Skiers and the Devils are getting ready for Summit a week from today, their Oct. 26 date will loom large throughout the season.
Perhaps even moreso for the Huskies who haven’t beaten Eagle Valley since 1997.
“Coach (John) Ramunno has built an awesome program down there,” Sedlak said. “He’s got a really sound offense, a really stingy defense. They have hard-nosed kids who play hard-nosed football.”
“It is a rivalry game. At the same time, both teams have to be competitive and win, otherwise it’s not a rivalry. I would love to compete with those guys. I’m an Army guy. I know what a good rivalry is.”
Battle Mountain was mathematically in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season in 2006, though its loss to the Devils the week before likely extinguished its hopes. The Huskies would love to be playing meaningful games late in the season with a shot at their first playoff berth since 1995.
“We have a goal to play 11 games,” Shue said.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.