BUENA VISTA – The sun setting behind the collegiate peaks presents the perfect back drop for high school. In its toughest challenge of the season, Buena Vista wanted to reward that back drop by restoring some of the passion and culture in its program that helped it compete for state titles a decade ago and even claim one in 2015.
But culture doesn’t appear overnight. Just ask the Limon Badgers, who were manning the opposite sideline, ready to take the field in perhaps the most important game at Buena Vista High School since 2015.
Class 1A No. 1 Limon’s culture is established as evidenced by its 50-13 win over the Demons in a fall night designed to house high school football.
Buena Vista’s culture is very much like a high schooler. Developing and still fine-tuning its identity. But make no mistake, it’s establishing itself and itching to be put on display. The problem with the No. 6 Demons (2-2 overall) is that self-inflicted wounds continue to stunt their progress.
They appear too often in the form of penalties and turnovers, and they come at the most inopportune of times. Down 36-13 to start the second half, a brilliantly called misdirection pass to quarterback Hayden Camp injected life into a comatose Buena Vista offense. Just as the Demons were on the verge of punching it in the end zone, a fumble gave the ball back to the Badgers (4-0).
And when mistakes are made in benefit of the Badgers, they know how to capitalize.
“I always talk with our players that they need to trust their teammates to do their jobs,” coach Mike O’Dwyer said. “Our defense’s job specifically. Our kids have bought in. They know they have to take care of their stuff and what they’re supposed to do.”
That’s the sign of an established culture.
Limon built its lead on its ground game. Lohgan Bottjer and Gabe Schubarth combined to rush for about 140 yards. Schubarth scored three touchdowns. That was the style of play that set the tone and that’s the kind of tradition that he had witnessed from the program while growing up.
“I’ve been wanting to play for Limon since I was five,” Schubarth said. “Just being out here and playing with your friends, it doesn’t get any better than this.’
The way he talks about it, playing for the Badgers is more a badge of honor than it is an extra-curricular activity. But with that badge comes expectations. Limon expects state championships and falling short last year was unacceptable by those standards.
“I feel like the seniors and other upper classmen really have a chip on their shoulder because of it,” Schubarth said.
That’s what comes with establishing a town-based high school football culture the way Limon has.
Buena Vista has been there before. It has been there with basketball in the late 1990’s and football in the early 2010’s. Friday’s game may have resulted in a loss, but there is a clear shift in the mentality in the town.
The football game is the place to be on Friday night. The town’s fire engine blared the sirens when the Demons scored their touchdowns.
What Limon has, Buena Vista is moving toward. And it’s going to be a fun ride for the Demons to get there.