RORY CHAPMAN/Special to the Durango Herald
It was Big Trouble in Little Durango on Saturday night at Chapman Hill when the Ark Valley High Roller All-Stars trucked into town to take on the hometown Durango Derailers.
Neither teams’ honeys ever skated faster than they could see, but the High Rollers really shook the pillars of heaven, taking the bout 208-188.
As the movie, “Big Trouble in Little China,” suggests, “It’s all in the reflexes.”
“In the end it was just a great matchup,” said the Derailers’ Jesstroyer, a lodging manager for Durango Mountain Resort, whose real name is Jessica Schum.
The High Rollers took the first two points of the match before the Derailers evened it up at 4 and started to build a sizable lead behind the short girl, weird clothes – first you see her, then you don’t.
Everybody relax, Jesstroyer was there.
The jammer – which is the only position who can score points – racked up a couple of five-point rounds by lapping the High Roller squad to put the Derailers up 26-5 in a powerjam brought on by a High Roller penalty.
“We’re fortunate to have such great blockers,” Jesstroyer said. “We can’t do it without them.”
Blockers, such as the wild-eyed, 8-foot-tall maniac Leslie Emerson, a day-care professional by day, run interference, while jammers such as Jesstroyer bring up the rear.
It takes cracker-jack timing; total concentration.
“She knows where I am, and she opens it up,” Jesstroyer said.
After that, it was the High Rollers’ turn to surge back, though, almost evening the match up at 31-30 on Derailer penalties.
They pushed it up to 48-34 as Derailer blockers and jammers alike struggled to stay out of the penalty box, giving the High Rollers plenty of opportunities to score shorthanded points.
Too many people around there were dropping like flies, and where was that getting the Derailers? Nowhere. Fast.
“Every time we got two people in the box,” the High Rollers made the Derailers pay, Jesstroyer said.
Although the Derailers pulled to 48-40 about halfway through the first half, the High Rollers made use of a string of Derailer miscues to extend the lead to 67-50 before settling at an 85-66 halftime break.
A few more penalty points made it 94-68 immediately after the break, but the Derailers were far from finished.
With a couple of key blocks and a powerjam, Jesstroyer put up another 15 points to fight within 12 at 103-91.
A crushing check or two by Emerson – about 6.9s on the Richter Scale – opened up small gaps for Jesstroyer to slip through.
“Basically the last thing you want to worry about is skating,” Jesstroyer said about hitting the holes and shrugging off body contact. That’s why the derby girls “skate on our kitchen floors and at work if we can,” Emerson said.
“We love to river trail,” Jesstroyer said. “It’s good for agility with all the cracks.”
For her part, Emerson said she had to make split-second decisions to both open up the holes and defend against the High Roller jammers. It’s something that gets easier over time, she said, but one way or the other, Emerson must have been born ready.
“I love being a blocker,” she said. “I love getting my jammer through and stopping their jammer.”
The damaging penalties kept coming for the rest of the period, though.
With Derailers incessantly skidding into the penalty box, the High Rollers opened up a 40-point lead behind the only card they needed: the jammer Ace of Spades.
Nevertheless, the Derailers pushed back within 11 at 161-150 with 9 minutes to go and looked to inch even closer.
But that’s when the Ark Valley girls from Salida did what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes and the poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake: They looked the Derailers right square in the eye and said, give me your best shot, gals. We can take it.
The Derailers did just that, pushing for the odd point or two as the final seconds rattled off, but the High Rollers had paid their dues; the 208-188 check was in the mail.
Still, “everybody’s happy,” Jesstroyer said.
“You can’t go away from a game like this disappointed,” Emerson said.