Slope teams are playoff stars |

Slope teams are playoff stars

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

If there was any question the Western Slope League is one of the most powerful conferences in Class 3A football, last weekend’s first-round playoff obliterated all doubt.

Not only did top-seeded Rifle blast Erie, 42-0, but No. 14 Eagle Valley upset No. 3 Frederick, 33-8, and No. 13 Delta ousted No. 4 The Classical Academy, 21-0.

Only No. 9 Palisade faltered, losing to No. 8 Roosevelt on the road, 21-15.

As such, Saturday’s quarterfinal round will be rather Western Slope-centric. Each of the league’s remaining three teams will host in the round of eight. Only the Silver Creek-Pueblo Central matchup will be staged on the eastern side of the Rockies.

Delta coach Ben Johnson, whose team will host No. 5 Pueblo East at 1 p.m. on Saturday, said WSL play did plenty to season his Panthers.

“It’s a tough league,” he said. “The coaches have great respect for each other. The teams are hard-nosed, tough teams. You come out of this league very well prepared for the playoffs.”

Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno is certainly beaming with pride these days, not only for his Devils but for the entire league.

“We’re just as excited as heck to get in the bracket, and then to go on the road and get a big win like we got, that does say a lot about the league,” said the veteran coach, whose team will host No. 6 Conifer at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

It had been since 2005 since Eagle Valley qualified for the postseason. Interestingly enough, the WSL went a perfect 4-0 in the opening round that fall.

“A lot of the other leagues were complaining we got four teams in, and then all four of us won,” recalled Ramunno, who has spent the last three decades at the Gypsum high school.

WSL success is certainly no recent development on the playoff stage. Of the last 10 Class 3A title games, seven have involved a school from the circuit. Three teams – Palisade in 2003, Rifle in 2004 and Glenwood Springs in 2008 – have won it all in that time frame.

Each of the remaining three coaches would love to see another golden ball awarded to a Slope school. They’ll certainly be rooting for each other this weekend.

“I was very happy for our league,” Johnson said. “I always root for our league – until we have to play one another, anyway.”

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