Vail Valley preps: Wheat Ridge rolls past Huskies
EDWARDS – Chuck Bunting is just clutch.The assistant coach, longtime Battle Mountain soccer fan and now announcer realized after introducing the starting lineups for Thursday’s Wheat Ridge-Battle Mountain soccer game that there was no iPod or any other recording for the national anthem.So without prompting, Bunting sang.”Chuck’s an all-star,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “That was excellent.”And that was pretty much the highlight of the day for Battle Mountain soccer. There’s no way of sugar-coating this – defending state-champion Wheat Ridge ran all over Battle Mountain, earning a 10-0 win in the last regular-season game for both teams before the 4A playoffs begin next week.”I think we’re coming together,” said Farmers coach Dan Watkins, whose team is 12-1-2. “I think we’re playing real well at the right time of the year. If we can stick together, we can make another run at it.”After watching Wheat Ridge, it’s really hard to argue. The Farmers played at a different level Thursday than the Huskies. It was visible every time the visitors got a first touch.And that’s the reason Battle Mountain scheduled the Farmers. Having experienced success for a good part of the decade against the 4A Slope. Cope wanted his team to get a taste of the playoffs before they started. That said, there’s no doubting Battle Mountain (11-4) didn’t want to be blanked for a second year by 10-0 count against the Farmers.”That’s a good team,” he said. “The experience was good for our players. If you want to compete with the best, you’ve got to seek out the best. That’s probably a better team than we’ll see in the first round (of the playoffs).”History does prove that. The Huskies ended the regular season with a rout at Wheat Ridge last year before playing competitively in a first-round loss to Golden, 4-0.In fairness to the Huskies, Wheat Ridge had outscored its opponents, 74-3, coming into Thursday’s match. The Farmers’ only loss was a 2-1 decision to 5A Columbine, and Battle Mountain was the sixth team this season to allow 10 against them (including Summit County).One reason why the Farmers are laying waste to most of Colorado is junior Annie Kunz, who’s already committed to Texas A&M. She scored five goals, four of which came in the first half.”She’s a special player,” Watkins said. “We haven’t had her for part of the season because of an injury, and others have had to step up. In a way, it’s helped us because we’ve had to look at other players. But she’s a special one. She’s all about making the team better.”And the Farmers showed that they are certainly not a one-person show. Junior Carly Nelson had two goals, and Elise Boisnard, Brooke Livingston and Antonia Land also scored. Wheat Ridge’s 10th tally came in 77th minute, invoking the mercy rule. The Farmers were gracious with the situation and could have ended it earlier, subbing in multiple players.The playoffs start Tuesday, and Wheat Ridge is thinking it will land somewhere around No. 5 as it continues its quest for back-to-back titles. The Farmers have been carrying a target on their back throughout the regular season and expect nothing different come the postseason.”Everyone is out to get us because we are the defending state champions,” Kunz said. “That just makes us want to win more.”Battle Mountain likely will land in the 20s when the draw comes out Sunday and be on the road Tuesday.”Players need to develop a competitive mindset that allows them to compete when things are not going well. I thought our kids kept playing today,” Cope said. “They were still trying to play to the end. I was proud of their demeanor.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.