Rivals hit the gridiron in Gypsum | VailDaily.com

Rivals hit the gridiron in Gypsum

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado

GYPSUM ” This game won’t decide a league title, but it’s just as important for both teams.

Today, Battle Mountain football travels to Gypsum to take on Eagle Valley for the annual in-county rivalry.

Entering the game, records don’t matter. A win here can make a handful of tough losses evaporate into the thin, cold air.

“You’re playing for pride,” said Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno.

The Devils, 5-3 overall and 3-3 in the 3A Western Slope, are coming off back-to-back league losses. Battle Mountain enters the game at 1-6 and 1-5 in league. Even though the Huskies haven’t won this game since 1997, Eagle Valley isn’t taking its opponent lightly.

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“It’s an important game that we have to win,” said Eagle Valley’s Nick Whitehead. “A lot of people have been saying we’re going to get cocky and will end up losing the game. But this is the hardest we’ve worked before any game because we really want to get this one.”

Battle Mountain and its players had no comment, according to coach Jason Sedlak.

While the Devils will bring their trademark double-win offense to the field, the Huskies primarily play a spread formation ” a look the Devils have faced several times this year.

“When I watch the film, I’m impressed with (quarterback) Todd Walker ” he can do so many things. He’s got great speed and he’s hard to defend. (Back) Ryan Hedrick likes to get it to the outside. They have some kids blessed with speed.”

On offense, Eagle Valley will look to gain chunks of yards on the ground while eating up clock.

“We want to establish the line of scrimmage, and we’d like to be able to set up the ball running,” Ramunno said. “Our backs have to carry us. I think the biggest thing that has affected us in the past two weeks is we’ve been turning the ball over.”

Costly fumbles against Glenwood and Rifle put the Devils in early holes from which they weren’t able to recover.

“We do individual skills every day during practice, and all we’ve been working on is ball control,” said Whitehead, who has gone for more than 100 yards on the ground in just about every game this season.

On defense, the Huskies will look to lineman Billy Shue, linebacker R.D. Cordova and others to stop the Devils.

“(Cordova) he gives a solid effort, he’s a pretty good tackler and when they send him, they make things happen,” Ramunno said.

Both teams aren’t just playing for themselves and their fans ” they’re playing for alumni and future gridders.

“All the alumni have been coming back ” they always come back for this, and they’ve been getting on us,” Whitehead said.

During the season, and especially during the game, both teams are, by virtue of the rivalry, sworn enemies. For the rest of the year, it’s not always the case.

“There are a lot of our kids who know the kids (at Battle Mountain),” Ramunno said. “They may snowboard with them or have known them since middle school. I think you always want to show up and give your best effort against the people you know.”

Last year on their home field, the Huskies came out strong early and after tying the game at 7-7, recovered an onside kick. But the Devils used some tough defense and solid running to break things open and taking the 35-16 win.

This year, the Devils are hoping to get an early lead on their home field for senior night.

“I know our kids watched the game film from last year and saw how excited (Battle Mountain) got when they got the ball and were able to score on us,” Ramunno said. “We’ve got to work hard and not let them do that.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

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