No 16 (?) Huskies host Ranum |

No 16 (?) Huskies host Ranum

Daily file photo Battle Mountain's Andy Banner and Antonio Aparicio (11) celebrate after a Banner goal last month against Steamboat Springs. Banner, Aparicio and the Huskies host Ranum today at 3 p.m. in Round 1 of the 4A state playoffs.

EAGLE-VAIL – Sixteen isn’t a very sweet number for Battle Mountain soccer.For the third straight year, Battle Mountain enters the 4A state tournament as the 16th seed.”We specialize in the 16-spot,” Huskies coach David Cope somewhat joked. “Maybe, we can save CHSAA some time by seeding us 16 next year.”The uneasiness in Cope’s voice seems somewhat justified. The last two years, Battle Mountain was legitimately in the 16-spot. Those years, the Huskies had the worst record of the field and drew No. 1-seeds, Broomfield and Liberty.This year is another story. It’s a 32-team field and the Huskies host No. 17 Ranum today at 3 p.m. There is only one team – No. 1 Liberty (14-0-1), whom the Huskies would likely face if they beat the visiting Raiders – with more wins than Battle Mountain (13-2).Along with Battle Mountain, there are only three teams in the 4A field with 13 wins – Pueblo Centennial and Greeley Central. Eleven teams ranked in front of Battle Mountain have worse records than the Huskies. The No 2-seed is Mullen at 9-5-1. That tie came at the hands of Summit. By the way, Battle Mountain beat Summit and Summit is ranked 13th.Given that Battle Mountain is also in the top-10 in both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, what you have is a bunch of Huskies with a very large collective chip on their shoulders.”There was some shock and disbelief and then we just had to get back to work,” Cope said. “We had a meeting yesterday and talked about it. There’s two teams that got unlucky in this draw. They’re Ranum and Liberty. Neither would have expected to see a top-10 team this early. We’ve got to take that approach that it’s other teams that were done the injustice. Now, they have to play us.”We’ve got to be really proud of what we’ve done, winning the league title. We’ve also got acknowledge that the Front Range is dominant. Until we prove otherwise, it’s going to remain so.”

“I was pretty ticked off,” Huskies fullback Harrison Brown said. “Then, after the meeting it kind of made more sense to me. Now. I’m more pumped than I was let down from the information.”The WildcatsWhat is done is done and now the Huskies have to tackle Ranum. Jose Osorio (13 goals and 11 assists) and Horacio Calderon (13 goals) lead the Wildcats on offense. Suvan Yang also appears to be one of their playmakers with 10 assists.The Wildcats finished 7-2 in the Skyline League and 9-6 overall. Their two league losses came against 5A schools. Ranum fell, 9-1, to Green Mountain, ranked 14th in the 5A field and, 4-3, to Aurora Central, which is ironically the 16th-seed in that tournament.An indication of the strength of Ranum’s schedule is that the Wildcats played seven of their 15 games against playoff teams. Ranum sports a 3-2 win over 5A Brighton, which is ranked 26th. The Wildcats have also played 4A playoff teams in Denver South, Widefield, Pine Creek and Centaurus.Rankings as the Huskies well know can be deceiving, so Cope and company can expect a big challenge today.The Banner factorThe Huskies enter today’s match having won their first Western Slope title in 12 years. Battle Mountain features an explosive offense, led by Andy Banner who has logged a school record 22 goals.The midfield of Kyle Moore, Tyler Cole, Dane Jacobs and Isaac Anderson has quietly been outstanding and the defense of Connor Drumm, Brown, Everado Gonzales and goalies Josh Ruark and Joel Gonzales is well-documented.

In the age of the Internet, Ranum coach Robert Pablo and the Wildcats doubtless know of Banner’s exploits and he will likely be the center of their attention. “So then, Andy has to be smart about pulling his defenders all over the field, trying to isolate them, not being static and staying in the same place,” Cope said. “We feel like if he can get isolated with one defender, even if its the man-marker, he’s in pretty good shape. The other thing is that if Andy can pull defenders out of position, he could create things for Edgar (Hernandez), Juan (Barragan) and all these guys.”While the Huskies don’t expect Banner to be taken out of the game, they are counting on their scoring depth. Hernandez has 12 markers and has shown the penchant for the clutch goal this season with seven game-winners.Battle Mountain also has Barragan back. He’s been injured for most of the season, but still has six goals.”It’s like my first day of school,” Barragan said. “I only got to play seven halves this year, so it was pretty disappointing. I’m so excited. I might try too hard. That’s what I’m worried about.”Nine of the Huskies’ starting 11 have scored goals this season. Who’s it going to be? Antonio Aparicio, Jacobs, Cole, Moore, Gustavo Bronfield? Pick a card, any card. One major minefield the Huskies have to avoid is looking ahead to Liberty. The No. 1-seed is all but a mortal lock to advance as it takes on 4-8-2 Thomas Jefferson. The Huskies fell to the Lancers last season in Round 1 and would love another shot at them.But of course, that’s all moot if the Huskies don’t get by Ranum.”We addressed that up front,” Cope said. “There’s always the fear in the playoffs of looking ahead. But, everybody understands the urgency of this one game. We can’t come out slow like we did against Alexander Dawson (in a 2-1 loss). You’ve got to have your best game right from the beginning.”

Home fieldAbout the only positive from being the 16th-seed is that Battle Mountain is at home today. The Huskies relish their home pitch and have been just about unbeatable on it.Harry Brown, how about home field?”You have no idea,” he said. “I can’t explain it.””Winning a home game in the (postseason) was done last year,” Cope said. “So, this group would like to do that again to get to a chance to do something the previous groups haven’t done. There’s a lot of pride of playing on this field. It’s the last home game for seniors more than likely. There’s a lot of things at stake.”Just for kicksBattle Mountain won a state-seeding game last year at home against Canyon City, 5-1. The Huskies have never won a 4A state playoff game. … Other first-round games of note include No. 20 Rifle at No. 13 Summit, No. 21 Glenwood at No. 12 Niwot and No. 23 Moffat at No. 10 Mountain View. And, no, that is not a misprint. Glenwood Springs finished ahead of Rifle in the Slope, but was ranked lower than the Bears.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614 or Colorado

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