Rivalry football extra
Welcome to Rivalry Extra, where we start by answering the question, “Where the heck was Battle Mountain?” The Huskies arrived in their bus only about 20 or so minutes before Friday’s game at Eagle Valley.
This dates back to Battle Mountain coach David Joyce’s days at Van Buren High School in Arkansas when his team would play rivals like Alma and Northside.
“We don’t warm up on their field. It’s one of those things from back home,” the coach said. “We get the music out. We do our routine on our field, go through everything just like it was at home, and then we get down here on the bus and play a football game.”
And thus, the Huskies warmed up in Edwards, hopped the bus and knocked off Eagle Valley, 54-0, Friday night. (Though I saw the Huskies warming up in Edwards from Interstate-70, it was weird to see only the Devils at Hot Staff Stadium. The assuring thing is that from the highway, the Huskies were wearing their road whites, so you figured they knew the game was in Gypsum.)
OK, the basics: It’s Battle Mountain’s third-consecutive win over their archrivals. The Huskies finished the regular season with a 9-1 mark after 3-7 last year and 0-10 in 2008. Battle Mountain’s officially in the playoffs for the first time since 1994. The draw comes out on chsaa.org on Sunday. The Huskies play Saturday afternoon, likely on the road. (We’ll explain later.)
Down to the coaches …
“We executed real well tonight,” Joyce said. “We did some things we traditionally do that get them in trouble in coverage. We just took advantage.”
“We’ve got to get better,” Devils coach John Ramunno said. “The three teams that are in the playoffs from our league (Rifle and Palisade as well) showed us that we’ve got to get a lot better. Battle Mountain’s got a lot of weapons. They’ve got a lot of speed. They throw the ball well. They should do well.”
• In the locker room, the Huskies, especially the seniors, were happy to finish the regular season with a win against Eagle Valley.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Huskies quarterback Jake Engle said. “When we were playing in (Pee Wee) football and middle school, my dad used to say to us that you never lose to a down-valley team. It’s been instilled with us since the sixth grade.”
You would think so when Dad is former Huskies coach Pat Engle. (We kid because we care, Pat.)
“It’s very important,” defensive captain Sawyer Bluhm said. “We’ve been saying all week that even if we go far in the playoffs, if we didn’t beat Eagle Valley, it wouldn’t mean anything. It’s the last time we ever get to play them.”
• A word or two about Eagle Valley: It’s weird seeing this game go down this way. I’ve been at the Daily since 1997, and I am so conditioned to seeing Eagle Valley do some variation of this to Battle Mountain every year. We are in one those cycles where Battle Mountain simply has better athletes in football than Eagle Valley does. (Strange, but true.)
I’ve heard a lot of grumping about coach Ramunno this year, but I don’t buy it. The Devils run the double-wing. It’s essentially the same offense that 10-0 Rifle and 9-1 Battle Mountain are using. The difference is that the Bears have a big line and guys like Ryan Moeller and Brandon Kittle and the Huskies have a great line too as well as Reeve Sanders, Zach Guida, Chris Libertini and Blaize Olle.
The scheme works. There have been times this year when Battle Mountain has looked so much like the Eagle Valley teams of old that I’ve had to do a double-take. It’s speed and depth at the running back position as well as a line.
The Devils were quite light on seniors this year and got lighter as the season progressed. Hopefully, all those juniors and underclassmen who got to play this year can use this experience and be motivated to do the work that will make 2012 a success.
• All in all, give the Huskies pretty good marks on the question of running up the score. Ramunno’s had teams that were light-years better than the Huskies in the past and took it easy. He gets it. Battle Mountain’s starters played the first half and got it to the running clock. The Huskies, by and large, ran the ball in the second half. There were a few passes, though they were screens, which might be questioned. On the other hand, there were some runs where the pile was just moving in Battle Mountain’s direction. (If it’s a dive play and that happens, so be it.)
• OK, playoffs. A team gets wild-card points on formula set up by CHSAA. If you beat a team with X number of wins you get X number of points. Battle Mountain was the top wild-card team when you took out the 3A conference winners – seven get automatic bids and host – before this week. But according to Joyce, the Huskies might get passed up by a team or two because they’ve played teams with a combined total of one win in the last two weeks (Steamboat Springs and Eagle Valley).
It looks like the Huskies will be on the road next week. The coach was fixated on the Evergreen-Conifer game in the locker room. Evergreen won, 13-9.
“I think we’re on the road against Conifer or Evergreen, whoever was winning that game,” Joyce said. “Right now, we’re pretty healthy and the guys are super-focused on doing work.
“We were so close to breaking through last year. I don’t want to say it was good thing, but it sure as heck motivates you. They’re still hungry. That makes us a dangerous team.”
CHSAA has the final say Sunday, but the Huskies are ready for their first foray into the postseason in a generation.
“You treat it like a regular week, but it’s not,” younger Engle said. “From now on every single game we play is our last. We have to play every play like it’s our last. You never know when it’s going to end. If we don’t play well, our season is over. This great season we’ve had, it goes down as a great season of what could have been.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.