So how important is a team’s opener?
Spoiler alert: It depends
Battle Mountain volleyball lost its opener in 2013 to Montrose, 25-20, 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, and the Huskies were morose, given the emphasis on the first game of the season.
The thing was that the Huskies won their next 20 games before losing the regional final to Coronado in November. So, in retrospect, all was not lost by losing the opener.
Battle Mountain cross-country crushed the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede, aka pre-state, last year, and we all envisioned a three-peat state title. The Huskies ended up finishing second at state to Niwot, so the season was a complete failure — not.
The last time Eagle Valley football won its opener was 2015 (Vista Peak, 21-6) and that was also the last year the Devils made the playoffs. Hmmm.
Or Battle Mountain football has won its opener the past five years — woo-hoo — and has not made the playoffs dating back to 2011.
Vail Christian football is 6-2 in openers in the past eight years, making the playoffs in the years the Saints won and not in the seasons starting with an L. This is completely deceiving as the two years Vail Christian lost, they were playing in Class 1A, while they made the postseason the other six years as an eight-man squad.
The point of all this exciting trivia is that the opener for a sport in the season may mean something or it really doesn’t. If you win, you’re setting the tone for the season. If you lose, there are a bunch of games left on the schedule.
Calm down or not
Football teams tend to put more into the opener as it constitutes 10 percent (or 11 percent with Vail Christian playing nine games) of the schedule. It is comical how fans tend to overreact when their NFL teams win or lose the opener.
The Broncos have started the last three years 4-0, 2-0 and 2-0, and not made the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50 in 2015-16.
A realistic expectation for our local football teams is likely the following: we hope that Battle Mountain beats Middle Park: Vail Christian takes down Front Range Christian and Eagle Valley keeps it close against Rifle.
The Devils have the toughest opener, and if they lose to the Bears, 49-7, like they did last year, all hope is not lost. The Bears may be a 2A team, but we all know that they are better than anything either Eagle Valley or Battle Mountain are going to see in the 3A Slope except for Palisade.
If Eagle Valley makes a game of it against Rifle, we might have something cooking in Gypsum. Meanwhile, for Battle Mountain to beat Middle Park and Vail Christian Front Range Christian would be the expected, though it’s worth noting that both opponents finished over 0.500 last year, so don’t be counting your chickens, folks.
With rating-percentage index — the first mention of RPI for the 2019-20 season came at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday and it is not by Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope — there is greater emphasis on the nonconference schedule.
And speaking of Cope, by hosting Montrose and Durango on back-to-back days to start the year weekend after next, Huskies soccer may have little more on the line than most teams. A good start against traditional playoff squads would help the Huskies.
It would be nice to win those two games for ye olde RPI, but the Battle Mountain soccer season still doesn’t start until matches against the Springses — Glenwood and Steamboat.
My guess is if the Huskies start 2-0 or 1-0-1 against Montrose and Durango, it will be highly significant. If not, the group of fellas are still getting to know each other.
Maybe this means something
If Battle Mountain cross-country does well on Friday at Cheyenne Mountain, we will know the Huskies girls are good, which we kind of know already. You don’t win eight regional titles in a row without being good. (Again, that’s why the Vail Daily pays me the big bucks.)
If they win, great. The fact remains, you don’t know who’s at that meet. For example, Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair is running abroad this week, and we hear she’s pretty good. We have no idea what Niwot will be running, and Niwot seems to be an Olympic squad.
I think it might be better if the Huskies don’t win. Giving Battle Mountain coach Rob Parish a little motivation with which to work is not the worst thing in the world.
But … what if the Battle Mountain boys cross-country team does well, much better than the last few years? Friday’s meet might actually be a launching point.
Along those lines, we have two other openers that could tell us something. Next week, Battle Mountain volleyball opens against Vail Christian, while Vail Mountain and Eagle Valley soccer renew acquaintances.
By general observation, Battle Mountain’s spikers should beat the Saints and VMS should handle Eagle Valley. (Again, Freud ain’t going out on a limb.)
But … were the Saints to win, continuing their bounce-back from 0-for-2017, or Eagle Valley to snag a point or three from VMS — we could genuinely have turning points for Vail Christian and the Devils (No jokes, please.)
So, to conclude, a team’s opener is a really big deal until it isn’t. You should make a really big deal out of it unless it’s not a big deal. The entire season is on the line — or not.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.