Vail Valley preps: Devils send No. 2 Farmers packing
LAKEWOOD – Big win is an understatement. Actually calling it an epic, stunning, gigantic victory may not be doing it justice.
No. 18 Eagle Valley soccer pulled the shocker of the postseason to date, knocking off No. 2 Wheat Ridge, 1-0, Monday evening at Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.
“It’s a great feeling. I can’t describe it,” Devils senior Marco Escobar said. “It the biggest soccer moment in my life.”
And it is easily the biggest moment in Eagle Valley soccer history for so many reasons. First and foremost, Wheat Ridge is the highest-ranked 4A squad an Eagle County team has bagged.
The Devils have made the quarterfinals for the second-straight season. It’s the first time for Eagle Valley and only the second time a local squad has made the 4A Elite Eight in consecutive years (Battle Mountain, 2005-06).
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And rest assured, Eagle Valley has sent a very loud message to the rest of the state about its program and the quality of soccer played on the Western Slope.
“I think it’s important for our league to get more attention,” Devils coach Jason Rittmiller said. “We are a force, a strong one. We are not what we are perceived to be, and we proved it tonight.”
There’s also the fact that this is two road playoff wins in the last seven days, a postseason rarity, for the Devils. Eagle Valley made Round 2 by winning at No. 15 Montrose, 3-2, in overtime last week.
“If we go all this way, we should have a reason for the trip,” the Devils’ Kevin Escobar said. “The ride back is shorter. Everything’s better.”
Likely, Eagle Valley’s previous high-water mark was last year’s Round 2 win against Mullen by a count of 2-1. Under the category of “Irony can be pretty ironic,” the Devils visit No. 7 Mullen Wednesday in the quarterfinals for their third meeting in four years in the playoffs.
Any team wants to get off to a good start whether it’s a preseason scrimmage or a playoff game. Eagle Valley wasted no time Monday, scoring in the third minute.
Nate Barker found Eliazar Saucedo at the top of the box. Saucedo drilled his shot into the lower-left corner for what would stand as the game’s only score.
“It was a great pass to Nate who was running forward,” Rittmiller said. “Eliazar took a shot at the post from just inside the 18. He just took an extra step.”
“That goal just boosted our spirits,” defender Israel Gomez said. “‘We can beat these guys.'”
In a game somewhat reminiscent of the Devils’ 1-0 postseason loss in 2007 to Montrose, Eagle Valley didn’t sit on its lead as the Indians did two years ago. The Devils kept pushing forward, and while it didn’t result in goal, Wheat Ridge learned that you can’t score when you don’t have the ball.
The Farmers did get the ball, Eagle Valley’s defense and goalie Mario Gonzalez were up to the test.
“We were mostly man-marking,” Gomez said. “Defense-wise, we played well. We shut down their forwards. Mario had an excellent game. They had one or two really good shots and Mario got them.”
By and large, the Devils had Wheat Ridge frustrated, keeping the Farmers out of the box and limiting their shots to those from long range. Eagle Valley kept its composure, while Wheat Ridge eventual lost its, losing a player to a red card late in the match.
And this brings Eagle Valley to an awfully familiar opponent. The Devils will play Mullen on Wednesday. Just as last week’s snowstorm threw Round 2, meant to be completed last Thursday, into chaos, it also took its toll on the Mustangs’ pitch.
Mullen’s field is unplayable and the school’s athletic director Tony Schenbeck is looking for an alternative site for Wednesday. He expects to announce the specifics today.
In the meantime, Eagle Valley-Mullen seems to be developing into an almost-annual affair. Three years ago, the No. 3 Mustangs smoked No. 30 Eagle Valley, 6-0. The Devils got their revenge last year in a 2-1 win at the Gypsum Sports Complex.
And Wednesday will be Round 3 in Round 3.
“It’s cool,” Marco Escobar said. “A couple of guys saw them three years ago. It’s cool seeing how other teams have grown and we get to show we can still do this.”
Technically, No. 7 Mullen is favored in the matchup, but as Eagle Valley showed Monday against the No. 2 team in the state, seeding doesn’t win playoff games.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.