It’s playoff time in everything and it’s great |

It’s playoff time in everything and it’s great

The Vail Mountain School soccer team celebrates a playoff win over Vanguard last month. More celebration is the offing as VMS returns 10 of its 11 starters for next year.
Townsend Bessent | Daily file photo |

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, it’s dumping outside the world headquarters of the Vail Daily, so the phrase comes to mind. But it’s the best time of year for preps — playoffs.


Yes, I ran this subhead in Wednesday’s paper, but it’s rare that Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope can surprise me like that. Cope is deadly serious about penalty kicks. When the Huskies started making the playoffs all those years ago, he would always have his five guys for game-ending kicks on his piece of paper folded in quarters.

To be honest, there were years I thought, “Cope, you wish you were getting to kicks.” Kids, there were years when the Huskies were the sacrificial first-round slaughter for Liberty. None chance of getting to kicks.

But that’s why I love this job. Go to a game and you might see something you’ve never seen before, like a goalie taking a penalty kick. And Jack Skidmore crushed it. For the record, the Huskies starting goalie has one goal and one assist. You can’t stop Skidmore. You can only hope to contain him.

Oh, yes, the game

Battle Mountain soccer has confused the heck out of me for the past two years or so. The talent has always been there. It’s been an issue of which Huskies show up?

The bad ones played against Rampart, albeit in a 2-0 win in Round 1. OK, everyone has nerves in the postseason, but that still doesn’t account for a lifeless performance through 80 minutes.

Wednesday’s 3-2 second-round victory over Valor Christian? Now that was cooking with Crisco, kids. (Ask your parents about that reference, children, but it’s good.) Part of that swing is high school sports. One day a bunch of 17-year-olds is on the planet. The next? Not so much.

Gents, what you take out of this is that you belong here. Nobody is crushing their way through the 4A bracket. You guys have broken down the bracket. No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain edged D’Evelyn, which barely got by Steamboat Springs. Mighty TCA (THE Classical Academy, does it think it’s Ohio State?) squeaked by Denver North in Round 2. Longmont went to kicks against Durango.

Play your game — fast, one touch, move the ball around, make Standley Lake run all over that 80-yard-wide pitch. Be the good Huskies.

Gold and orange

Again, this is why this is the best time of the year. In about one week, I’ve watched five soccer playoff games in a week with two of them going to overtime, including the Vail Mountain School beating Vanguard, 3-2.

Eric Zdechlik’s “shot” may not have gotten a good grade on artistry, but it brings up an invaluable point this time of year.

Put the ball on frame.

You’d like to think that a playoff goal is going to be an elegant cross and a fantastic finish, but it isn’t. Put the shot on frame and see what happens generally does the trick.

I’m not saying run up the middle of the pitch on Friday against Pagosa Springs. Keep doing that voodoo that you do so well — diagonals, switching, coming down the flanks.

But finish, finish, finish, finish.

This is the task. Ugly goals are beautiful, particularly this time of year.

By the by, Zdechlick scored VMS’ first golden goal in the postseason since Patrick Scanlan did so in 2004. (Yes, I desperately need a life if I know that.)

Common opponents with Pagosa Springs are wins over Crested Butte and Dawson. Perhaps the Gore Rangers might have noticed that Pagosa beat Jefferson Academy and that VMS did not. Just throwing that out there.

Wear orange, people.


Zowie! I just found out where Springfield, Colorado, is. Say hello to Oklahoma and Kansas for me, Vail Christian football.

Before you guys head down to Baca County, two thoughts on West Grand:

• Losing Ryan Hethcote was a bad break, particularly when he goes down in practice on a Thursday, which is followed by a Friday game. Losing your center in a shotgun offense is a problem. Losing your center in 8-man is losing a third of your line, which is also a problem. (Outstanding analysis, Freud.) You’ve had a week to work on snaps and adjusting the offense now as opposed to about 30 minutes last Friday.

• Oh, yeah, you were also playing a very motivated football team on Friday in the wake of J.D. Guess’ death. I don’t like West Grand very much, but they deserved that win on physical and spiritual levels. With or without Hethcote, a major factor, but a hypothetical nonetheless, the Mustangs played better on Friday.

The West Grand community needed that win as well. I know it stinks to lose, but there are bigger things than football. All you needed to do was look across the way and see pretty much the entire town of Kremmling there and the postgame team huddle, which was the biggest I’ve ever seen. Good on everyone involved, including the Saints, who helped start the healing as well.

Now, it’s time to go about business. The Longhorns are good, yet so are you. You don’t have to be Bill Walsh to figure out that Rafe Hutches (No. 23) is going to get the ball a lot. Springfield probably is big in the trenches. You guys aren’t exactly pushovers.

You beat Merino last year in the playoffs in the first round. You’re not playing the Broncos. You’re playing a high school team.

And let’s see if Brady Ellsworth can photo-bomb his way into another picture. (How does the kid do it?)

Senior Night

Central comes to Eagle Valley on Friday night for what looks like a play-in game to the 3A state playoffs. (Oh, by the way, it’s Senior Night, too.) In the jumbled mass that is 3A wild-card points, the Devils (6-3) are 13th and in right now with Central (5-4) out at 20th.

Yes, the 3A Slope is a good enough league to send five. Last year, the league did send five with the Devils being 7-3. Seven wins means you’re in.

Central is not a team that points over left guard and says, “We’re running there.” And that’s good because the Warriors aren’t Palisade (No. 3 in the points), Rifle (No. 5) or Delta (No. 6). As I was saying, this league is pretty good.

The Warriors are going to chuck the ball all over John Ramunno Field. Run the football to keep quarterback E.J. Barrera on the sideline and pressure him when he’s on the field.

You’re Eagle Valley football. This is what you do — make the playoffs.

Here comes the Slope

In volleyball, we’ve spent much of the fall seeing the Western Slope beat the snot out of each other. Now it’s time to show the state how good this league is.

Steamboat and Delta are home for regionals, and, hopefully, they will advance. Can the rest of the league follow?

Eagle Valley’s at Region 10 in Evergreen on Saturday to play the hosts as well as Mesa Ridge. Battle Mountain’s at Region 4 at Holy Family for the aforementioned and Niwot on Friday.

Show them what you’ve got, ladies.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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