Vail Valley football showdown: Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley meet in Gypsum
This rivalry still needs a name.
Say Iron Bowl, Red River Shootout/Showdown or The Game, and you know it’s Alabama-Auburn, Oklahoma-Texas or Yale-Harvard.
Sorry, The Game in the Freud family ain’t Michigan-Ohio State, but that’s another column. (Go Yale on Nov. 17.)
Call it Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley or Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain, the Eagle River Rumble (weak sauce, I know), the Huskies visit the Devils at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, in a football game that’s been on everybody’s mind since Oct. 27 of last year, the last time these two teams played.
In theory, this game is never the most important game in the 3A Slope. That’s been some combination of Palisade vs. Glenwood Springs, Rifle or Delta, depending on the year.
This game hasn’t had playoff implications for both teams since 1985. Usually one team enters as a prohibitive favorite (more often than not, Eagle Valley in my 21 years here), and usually the game is a rout.
The Huskies won, 44-0, last year. The Devils won 45-0 in 2016.
In 2009, Battle Mountain won, 14-7. Back in 2003, the Devils won a sorta close one, 28-17.
Trivia time: When was the last time this game was decided by one point?
This game will not run on ESPN Classic any time soon. Friday’s game will involve no one going on to the NFL. I doubt this game has any playoff implications for Battle Mountain. (We’ll get to that later.)
Yet this is the game of the season, though, one that all involved will remember. This is the playoffs for the Devils and Huskies.
As much as both programs want to win Slope titles and make the playoffs, this is the most important game of the year every year.
Throw out the records
Yes, it’s cliche, but the records — Huskies (6-3) and Devils (2-7) — are really irrelevant.
Not that anyone ever compares scores between the two years, but the Huskies and Devils wisely scheduled Alameda (a 57-12 stomping for Eagle Valley and 50-8 rout for Battle Mountain).
Palisade and Glenwood Springs housed our local teams.
Both teams had close games against Steamboat — the Huskies winning, 35-33, and the Devils falling, 54-53, in overtime. Eagle Valley’s last time in OT? That would be in 1997, a 14-13 loss to Battle Mountain, and the answer to the trivia question.
The Huskies beat Summit County, 26-14, while the Tigers topped the Devils, 20-7.
But there are two reasons the records really don’t matter.
• Battle Mountain doesn’t have its starting quarterback and best running back because they won’t be there. It’s just not the same team that started the season 6-1. Of course, the Huskies weren’t going to do much against Glenwood and Palisade with those players, but their absence makes a big difference against Eagle Valley.
• Battle Mountain padded that 6-3 record with a soft nonconference slate, which seems to be costing the Huskies in the rating-percentage index. Battle Mountain is 19th — 16 make it — and behind 4-5 and 5-4 squads.
If the Huskies played Evergreen and Rifle in nonconference play, as Eagle Valley did, their record would look a lot more like the Devils’ record.
Friday night should be a close game either way.
We’re watching …
• Eagle Valley’s passing game vs. Battle Mountain’s secondary … This is a really fun matchup. The Devils can move the ball — 53 points last week — while the Huskies’ secondary is a bunch of ball-hawks. Battle Mountain’s defense has 14 interceptions, an absurd amount in the run-heavy world of Colorado football.
The Devils do have the advantage in the air with now-senior quarterback Jesse Moser — I called him a senior last year; this year I mean it. But Garrett Anderson, Eric Biggs and Anthony Sanchez, are stout.
• Zak Cossette vs. a cast of minions. If I’m playing defensive coordinator for either team, I’d stuff the box and, if the other team can complete a pass or six, good for them.
Meanwhile, the Huskies will attempt a token pass, but be ground-oriented.
This is probably going to turn into a ground-chuck game. Battle Mountain runs the double-wing, but couldn’t stop it against Glenwood. How are they going to do against the wishbone? Eeep is the tactful answer.
So Eagle Valley’s Cossette going to run a lot. And so are Battle Mountain’s Kia Gongaware, Anderson and Biggs.
Whoever figures out how to stop the other’s ground game first wins.
• Turnovers … Eagle Valley throws the ball and pitches it out of the wishbone. Battle Mountain has a newer quarterback (snap issues) and also runs the power-I with a lot of tosses. There is potential for mayhem with either team.
• Trickeration … I understand this isn’t a word, but after senior Breeam Brandenburg last year, Huskies coach Jim Schuppler will be up to something on Friday. (Brandenburg, a snowboarder, lined up at kicker for an extra point and a did a backflip that distracted Eagle Valley’s defense, while the Huskies ran for a two-point conversion.)
For what are you saving anything?
• Motivation … This would make Eagle Valley’s season. After going 0-10 last fall, 3-7 with a win over Battle Mountain would make for huge strides. While 6-4 is normally a darn good season for the Huskies, losing three straight to end the season after a 6-1 start would be sour.
There’s also the fact that the Huskies haven’t beaten the Devils in consecutive years since they did it thrice from 2009-11.
Should be fun. See you there. (My prediction is on my pad, photographed for posterity, but there’s no way in heck I’m telling anyone.)