When a season opener doesn’t go as planned
“The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!”
That’s how I feel on the first day of preps, but I don’t run around like Steve Martin in “The Jerk.”
High school sports are like your favorite novel, but with a few extra chapters after the book has supposedly ended. For sports writers, there’s always next year.
Like a book, you go in with some expectations. Some teams should be good — Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain soccer, Huskies cross-country and Eagle Valley football are the picks by history and performance trends. And from 19 years of covering this county — my planned two-year stint before moving onto a bigger paper is moving slowly — some team will disappoint and some team will come from absolutely nowhere. (I’m looking at volleyball, people. I really think either of our 4A teams could do something.)
It’s what makes this fun. Every time you think you know the lay of the land, something goes crazy.
Here’s one certainty, though. Somebody’s going to lose a game, perhaps even an opener. After all, Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain soccer play on Saturday. (Yes, a draw is possible, you smart aleck.)
The point stands.
And here’s another point — just because you lose a season opener, all is not lost.
It’s hard to keep the proper perspective because everything has been leading up to the crescendo that is the opener. Coaches, athletes and fans have the date memorized. Battle Mountain football has had Steamboat Springs on the brain since the schedule came out in the spring. Our cross-country teams have been ready for today’s meet down in Colorado Springs since assorted runners cross the finish line at the state meet last year.
As a preemptive strike for a team, which may lose a season opener, here’s a little recent history:
• VMS soccer lost its opener to Jefferson Academy, 3-2, last fall. The Gore Rangers didn’t lose another game for two months and one week. They were 16-0-1 in between the loss to Jefferson Academy and the state semifinals against Kent Denver.
• Eagle Valley volleyball not only lost its opener to Central last year, but started 0-4. The Devils finished 17-8 and took state-bound Evergreen to five sets in regionals before falling.
• Eagle Valley soccer lost a heartbreaker in last year’s opener against Glenwood Springs. The Devils dominated. And, naturally, the Demons got the win, 2-1, on a counter in overtime. Eagle Valley went on to go 12-3 last fall and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
That’s just fall sports from last year. We could go into the way-back machine, and keep listing more examples.
Likewise, if you win your opener, you are not God’s gift to your sport. You are not destined to win the state title. I could do a similar list to the above of teams, which won their first game and went on to inglorious seasons.
Devils’ soccer last year was particularly noteworthy as its first match could have sent its season in either direction. Remember that Eagle Valley was coming off a 6-8-1 campaign. A collective thought could have been, “Well, here we go again, losing close games. This is going to be the same old, same old.” Instead, the Devils shook it off and won seven in row, capped by a revenge win at Glenwood. (Yes, the Devils also beat the Huskies during that run. Perhaps, some people remember that.)
It was clearly not the same old, same old.
An opener is just that, a point of reference. This is where the team starts and the goal is how can it improve? The teams that do are the ones who make noise later in the season.
And even if a loss doesn’t happen in the opener, it’s probably going to happen at some point during the season. VMS girls soccer, the two-time defending state champions, have not gone undefeated. The Dawson game, anyone?
Battle Mountain volleyball didn’t go undefeated in 2006. Battle Mountain soccer in 2012 … whoops, the Huskies were 20-0.
That crazy season aside, and that was amazing, you’re going to face adversity. How do you deal with it? This isn’t just about sports, but learning about life.
And all this said, hey, go out and win, Devils, Gore Rangers, Huskies and Saints, and we’ll root for that tie in Battle Mountain-VMS soccer.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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