We’re still No. 1 in the RPI, and it could start to matter
Can the Saints and Huskies make a run?
The leaves are turning and, in theory, the first snow of the season is coming today, and we still have two teams atop the rating-percentage index, Battle Mountain soccer and Vail Christian football.
The end must be near because, as we all know, the RPI is designed to screw the Western Slope.
Around two weeks ago, I wrote about how much it really didn’t matter at that point in the season. Vail Christian alum Winsor Stough wrote on our Facebook feed that, essentially, I wasn’t giving the Saints their due because they did beat West Grand after I wrote, “I don’t put much stock in numbers that have the Saints 11 spots ahead of West Grand. The Mustangs are the best in the 8-man Slope until someone proves otherwise.”
So, we give the Saints their due. Big win. Vail Christian is the best in the west/Northwest League after defeating the Mustangs. I’m still worried about Saturday night’s game at Soroco. It’s the Rams’ Homecoming and they would like nothing more than lay a you-know-what-burger in the middle of Vail Christian’s season.
The good news is that Jace Logan has graduated from Soroco. The Saints “held” the running back to 380 yards on 35 carries with just eight touchdowns in a 74-66 win last year.
The RPI is more valid than when last we visited this topic. Vail Christian football is a little more than halfway through the season, having played likely two of its toughest opponents. (Still worried about Soroco.) Battle Mountain soccer is two-thirds of the way through its slate.
But, just to tweak Winsor because we care … the Saints have to prove that they’re the best team in 8-man football, just as the Huskies must do the same in 4A soccer.
The question for the Saints is can they compete with the Eastern Plains? Look among the top teams in the RPI and you see the traditional powers like Fowler, Haxtun, Pikes Peak Christian, Dayspring Christian, Merino, Sedgewick County, and Caliche. (Sheldon Kuhns just got called for a foul after a mention of Caliche.)
It’s a different level playing those teams as Vail Christian has experienced in the old cross-over games and straight-up playoff meetings.
I’m sure Merino is a nice town and the wool is really soft, but those Rams have bludgeoned the Saints, 59-6 (2007), 38-0 (2009) and 41-12 (2011). This is why those of us who have been around Saints football since the Bob Isbell days were delirious when Vail Christian beat Merino, 38-34, in the 2014 playoffs.
The 2014 season is a good reference point. That and the 2003 squad are likely the best in school history. The 2003 team was the first to burst onto the scene, which gives it a place in Saints lore, while the 2014 edition probably played better competition. Both ran the table during the regular season. Both won their leagues. Both won a playoff game, all things to which Jamo and Flying Nowickis aspire. (Yes, we should probably stick to calling them the 2019 Saints.)
The 2014 Saints went to Dayspring Christian for the quarterfinals and got housed, 42-0. That was not a fun trip to the outskirts of Greeley.
There are two lessons here. One, this year’s Vail Christian team needs to raise its game, regardless of the opponent. Being good in the Western Slope/Northwestern League is one thing. Being a state contender is another.
Two, why not Vail Christian? There is a first for everything. If everything were foreordained, what would be the point of watching sports? Mancos, Fowler and Dayspring are good, but they are still high school kids.
The 2003 team broke through beating Genoa-Hugo in the playoffs. The 2014 team took it a step further finally beating Merino? What’s your contribution to the progression, 2019?
An don’t forget to beat Soroco, please.
Oh, yes, the Huskies
One of the things that always surprises me about our readership is that some think I want our teams to lose, that I take pleasure in losses.
Are you kidding me?
In 22-plus years at the Vail Daily, the most fun I have ever had covering a team was 2012 Battle Mountain soccer. Think about it. From a selfish standpoint, I’m a brilliant writer in the minds of our readers when a team is winning. And when a team goes on a run like the 2012 state champions, this stuff just writes itself.
Beating Evergreen on P.K.’s? The state-title in the snow? I’m freaking Shakespeare.
And it is within this context, that I still don’t know how to peg the 2019 Battle Mountain soccer team. I love that the Huskies are No. 1 in the RPI just as figurative dropping of the pants to CHSAA.
The No. 1 ranking is also not outrageous looking around the state. As of this writing, Evergreen is No. 2 and Silver Creek No. 3. The Huskies have beaten these teams in past years. That doesn’t guarantee Battle Mountain will win this year, but the Huskies aren’t exactly attempting to land on the moon against those teams.
Perhaps, 2012, in a way, spoiled me. You could see the 2012 title run coming together. The team obliterated the Slope. An encounter with Evergreen was mandatory — in the quarterfinals as it turned out — and, after that, the 2012 Huskies were going to beat Broomfield and Palmer Ridge, even if the latter took more penalty kicks in the snow.
The 2019 Huskies were going to be good, because, well, Battle Mountain soccer is pretty much automatically good now. The most under-reported story of the fall is that the Huskies are all but on their way to a fifth straight Slope title. (The 2004-07 and the 2010-13 teams won four in a row, but nary a fifth.)
I keep asking myself, though, “How good is this soccer team?” I have no feel for it like I did in 2012.
The 2019 team has played a better nonconference slate (Montrose, Durango and The Classical Academy) than 2012 (Montrose, Delta and Basalt.) Beating TCA on the road with your best player (Dani Barajas) limited by injury is darn impressive.
Perhaps, I should stop thinking about 2012. As much as coach David Cope and I are into history — the guy teaches social studies — this year’s soccer team was in grade school back in 2012.
Perhaps, the 2016 team is a better parallel. An overtime loss at Eagle Valley, where the Huskies play tonight — ahem, upset alert — and a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of TCA left me thinking that we weren’t going to see spectacular things that fall.
The Huskies won 13 in a row, including the D’Evelyn miracle, and wound up in the state-title game again against blasted TCA. (The Titans crushed the Huskies again.)
While we do not endorse losing to TCA, I really never thought that Battle Mountain soccer could return to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the state-title game. (When I met Cope on the field that day, he asked me “Did you ever think we’d be here again,? I answered, “No.” We both laughed.)
But it can happen again because it already did. Just like Vail Christian football, why not the Huskies?
Snow’s in the forecast, right? It’s gotta be a sign.