Sailors to host rematch

Eagle Valley defeated Steamboat last month

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Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno had one question. How much snow did Steamboat Springs get during the weekend?

"I heard 2 feet," he said.

Regardless of the total in-town snowfall, Ramunno and his Devils are expecting shoddy field conditions when they play the Sailors in a Class 3A quarterfinal matchup at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gardner Field.

Gardner Field was wet when Eagle Valley and Steamboat squared off in a Western Slope League game Oct. 14. The Devils fumbled seven times and still won, 16-13. Conditions have deteriorated since then.

"Last time we came up, I had one towel and no extra game balls," said Ramunno, who grew up in Steamboat. "This time, we're bringing a whole busload of towels and four game balls."

Although he might be exaggerating about the number of towels he's hauling to Routt County, Ramunno is correct in emphasizing the importance of hanging onto the ball in Saturday's game.

"Turnovers will be monumental," he said.

The Sailors, as the host school, picked the game time and day. Coach Aaron Finch opted for Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night.

"It's more comfortable for fans," he said. "It's kind of been a tradition here to play on Saturdays. John and I talked and agreed it would be the best time, as well."

Eagle Valley (10-1) has a better overall record and finished higher in the league standings, but Steamboat (9-2) hosts Saturday's contest because the Sailors had to travel for their opening-round playoff game.

Eagle Valley, on the other hand, beat Cherokee Trail in Gypsum.

Ramunno is disappointed that three Western Slope schools -- Eagle Valley, Steamboat and Rifle -- are on the same side of the playoff bracket and that two of them have to meet in the quarterfinals. Palisade is on the other side of the bracket. All four league schools won their opening-round games.

Ramunno serves on the Colorado High School Activities Association committee that designed the playoff brackets before the season, and he unsuccessfully tried to get the committee to amend them.

"I don't think the bracket is very fair for the Western Slope," he said.

The Tri-Valley League receives five playoff berths, and the state committee deemed it more important to split those teams up because a majority of its members thought it was going to be the best league in the state.

"Guess what?" Ramunno said. "All five teams are out."

Ramunno said he hopes this year's results, as well as state titles won by Rifle (2004) and Palisade (2003), prove the Western Slope's worth.

In other playoff action this weekend, Rifle (7-4) hosts Elizabeth (8-3) because the Bears upset top-ranked Northridge. Palisade (9-2) travels to Florence (10-1) for a rematch of the 2003 and 2002 championship games, and Alamosa (8-3), fresh off an upset of Niwot, hosts Conifer (9-2).

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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