Vail The first round goes to Battle Mountain - but round two is in a week.
The Huskies took the latest in a series of heavyweight soccer bouts Tuesday, knocking off Steamboat Springs, 2-0, to take first place in the Class 4A Western Slope League. It should be a whopping 48-hour reign for Battle Mountain, until Thursday, when Glenwood Springs is at Eagle Valley.
The Huskies moved to 6-1 and hold the tiebreaker with their down-valley rivals, Eagle Valley (6-1), by virtue of a 2-1 win against the Devils on Sept. 9. Glenwood is at 5-1, while Steamboat is 4-3 in what is the most wide-open West Slope race in years.
Not only do the Devils and Demons meet Thursday, but the Huskies and Sailors clash all over again Tuesday in Steamboat.
"We hope for draws," Huskies coach David Cope sort-of joked.
Tuesday's Battle Mountain-Steamboat Springs contest started as a match between the Sailors' strong midfield possession game and the Huskies' speed on the flanks.
The Huskies' Davey DeChant started Battle Mountain's first tally with a run down the left side and a pass to Leopoldo Rodriguez. Polo, as he is better known to his teammates, had a shot, but crossed the ball instead to Jair Molina, who headed the ball past Steamboat goalie Connor Birch for a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Molina had a nice angle on net. But instead of taking the shot, he drew out Birch and slid the ball across to DeChant for the easy tap-in.
"Both were high-end goals," Cope said. "It was selfless play. Leo could have scored. Instead, he goes to Jair. Jair could have had another, but he gives Davey the better shot."
Teamwork was something Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann felt was conspicuously absent from his charges.
"When you play as a group of individuals, that is not going to work" against Battle Mountain, he said. "The good thing is that is uncharacteristic of our team."
Despite a lack of unity at times, Steamboat still had its chances. The best came late in the first half, when the Sailors' David Wright rifled a shot toward the upper right corner of the net, only to be denied by Huskies goalie Clint Hervert.
"That was a game-changer," Huskies midfielder Tyler Madison said.
Also key was Battle Mountain's depth. Cope used his bench early and often, rotating midfielders Brian Morales, Jack Sunderland, Sergio Sifuentes, Madison, Rodriguez, Cody Hervert, Efren Gonzalez and Patty Baskins.
Although Battle Mountain didn't get the back-breaking third goal it sought in the second half, the Huskies' fresh legs dictated the tempo in the latter 40 minutes.
"This is what we can do when we have everyone," Cope said. "It speaks of the fellas that we bring, that sort of quality off the bench."
Steamboat (7-3 overall) likely will have the opportunity to get back on the winning track with a home game at 11 a.m. Saturday against Palisade.
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain hosts Moffat County under the lights of Phelan Field at 6 p.m. Saturday for homecoming.
The Huskies (8-2) are a decided favorite, but none of the top four teams contending for the Western Slope crown can afford to drop points to the bottom three teams in the league.
"I've never played a game there," DeChant said. "It's something we're all looking forward to."