No scapegoats for Huskies football
I watched last Saturday’s Battle Mountain-D’Evelyn playoff game, right there on the sideline. I drove back up here, thinking about the game during the snowy two-hour ride. I wrote 1,200 or so words on the game.
And, when I was done, I said to myself, “I still don’t believe it.” (Due to our G-rating, that wasn’t a direct quote.)
Like Game 6 of this year’s World Series, it was a great game. You just wish your team wasn’t involved in it because you would have heart failure. Or better yet, you hope your team wins that, so we all can laugh about it afterward.
The Huskies looked as good as I’ve ever seen them in that first half, building a 31-7 halftime lead – and, yes, that includes the second half of the Palisade game. And, yes, we were working our smart phones, seeing that No. 16 Frederick knocked off No. 1 Canon City and the Huskies were going to be home today for the second round because this one was in the bag.
And that was our problem in a nutshell as fans and players alike. (I don’t include the coaches on this count because they were in the locker room, saying, “This isn’t over, boys,” or something to that effect.) One can point out different moments and we’ll examine them, but the reason we’re talking about a 40-38 loss, instead of today’s Frederick game goes back to a familiar theme.
It was Battle Mountain’s first playoff game in 18 years, and the team, having not been in such an environment, didn’t know what to do. The Huskies really played only two tight games in the 2011 season – Rifle and Palisade, going 1-1. When the Huskies had big leads this year, the other team said, “No mas.”
Instead D’Evelyn scored twice in the first 4:24, Battle Mountain was leading just 31-21, and all involved on the sideline got tight. You could feel it. To its credit, the team did not stop playing. The boys weren’t yelling at each other. They were resolute to the end.
But in the interests of stamping down the scapegoating, here we go:
• The coaches: They knew it wasn’t over, and preached that. Not only did David Joyce and company take this group from 0-10 in 2008 to the point where playoffs entered the Battle Mountain football lexicon this year, but they had a good game plan for D’Evelyn.
I was at practice when they were installing the defense for the Jaguars, and they nailed it. D’Evelyn wasn’t going to run and the Huskies were going to use their best athletes in coverage.
People, the coaches don’t play the game. Battle Mountain was working on the slant all week in practice, and that was the route that did it. The players have to execute, and, at times, they did. The Huskies picked D’Evelyn quarterback Caleb Flack four times. As Joyce said to me during the second half, “We need one more stop.”
It didn’t happen. That is not on the coaches.
• Jake Engle: Was it a good idea for him to throw on third-and-15 from the Jaguars’ 43? Yes. As explosive as Battle Mountain’s running game was, it’s a passing down, and D’Evelyn was adjusting to the running game. Engle ended up throwing a pick-six, but blaming him for the loss? Shut up.
Let’s remember that the double-wing was initially meant to be a diversion in the opening week against Summit. The Huskies would run it for a few series and then go to what they intended to do since the beginning of the 2010 season, throw the ball all over the place.
Not only was it his only serious interception of the season – the other was on a Hail Mary – this is the guy in whose hands you want the ball. I’d call it again.
What’s more Engle has been the consummate team player all year. This was meant to be a year when he would shine, racking up the passing yards. Instead, he ran the double-wing, selflessly (and scarily for all of us watching) blocking for the stable of runners. He was all about winning, whatever it took. Try again for a scapegoat.
• Caleb Flack: Yep, the Jaguars quarterback. D’Evelyn scored with 49 seconds left in the third on a Flack pass to Matt Menard. Timmy Licciardi absolutely drilled Flack on the pass. “Nice play, Caleb” is really all you can say there.
• Reeve Sanders: With 7:30 left in the fourth quarter, Sanders fumbled on a 16-yard run. Since that play went to the far side of the field, we’ll never know if he was down or not. Either way, putting it on a guy who ran for more than 200 yards, had three touchdowns and also intercepted three passes is just silly.
• The refs: I am so sick of this. Stop blaming them for everything. Battle Mountain didn’t like the reffing. D’Evelyn coach Jeremy Bennett didn’t like the reffing. This needs to be applied to all high-school sports, by the way.
• Paton Lovett: He got dinged up and missed the play which ended up being the winning touchdown. Yeah, let’s blame a kid who gets hurt. Come on. Lovett was one of the unsung heroes this year. He also returned to the game. No sale.
• Chris Libertini: Yep, it was excruciatingly-dumb personal foul with the Huskies having the ball on the D’Evelyn 15 with two minutes left. Yeah, the kid was pounding you, but they always call the retaliation. I feel bad about this. Lib feels bad about this. Everyone involved with it feels bad about this. But haven’t we already mentioned a series of events, which could have rendered this moot?
More importantly, the biggest legacy of this moment is how does Libby respond to this down the road? We’re back to sports as an extension of the class room. Be it hockey, lacrosse or life, how do you respond when the fecal matter hits the cooling device. I’m rooting for Libby.
• Heivan Garcia: He missed the field goal late. Honestly, it’s good if we don’t have the personal foul. But, with a 31-7 lead, there is no blaming the kicker. What’s more, Garcia led the football team in soccer goals.
Battle Mountain won as a team and lost as a team. And, please let’s insert a little perspective here. We’re doing a postmortem on a 9-2 Battle Mountain football team.
Yes, it hurts. But this was an amazing season in so many ways. A 9-1 regular season. Beating Palisade. Todd Walker. Wrecking Glenwood Springs’ Homecoming. Winning at Moffat. Taking it to Verne Lundquist. The double-wing at Battle Mountain. Two shutouts. Sanders returning kickoffs. Libby shuffling through the line. Blaize Olle somehow slithering through. Here comes Zach Guida. Jordan Harrison and Carl Hamrick destroying people. Eric Weiss with the pick and the pick, etc.
And, yes, from a Battle Mountain view, pounding Eagle Valley.
Heck of a season.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.