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All grown up

Soroco's die-hard freshmen -- three years later

They have always been undersized and outnumbered, but they have always played football.

Even when Soroco dropped out of the Western Slope League four seasons ago, becoming an independent and forfeiting chances for postseason play, its freshmen kept playing and kept practicing.

Those freshmen came back the next year and the next, despite getting beaten in game after game.



That group of 10 die-hards takes the field tonight against West Grand as seniors in their final home football game at Soroco. As added incentive, should Soroco defeat West Grand, the Rams have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 1988.

Soroco owns the tiebreak against Plateau Valley and Grand Valley, assuming the Rams win and the other two teams lose this week to Meeker and Paonia, the top two teams in the league.



In three years, the seniors have gone from being an independent team as sophomores, to a one-win team as juniors, to a potential playoff team as seniors.

“Ever since we were freshmen, we were the kids who were supposed to do something,” senior Joel Manzanares said.

What they’ve done is instill a winning attitude in a program struggling for an identity. When Gary Heide assumed head coaching duties before the 2001 season, he had an idea on where he wanted to take Rams football. And he’s starting to see his vision realized in the effort from this year’s team.

“We’re developing a style of play that whether you play a superior team or play a team you are superior to, that you always play at 110 percent,” Heide said. “I believe we have played every game hard.”

Soroco’s on-field performances this season have translated into a 4-4 overall record heading into the 7 p.m. kickoff today. In league play, the Rams are 2-4, having defeated Plateau Valley and Hayden.

Last year, the Rams did not win a league game. This season, they lost to Meeker by a touchdown, lost to Rangely by a point and picked up two league wins on the way to tonight.

“We’re better than I thought we’d be,” senior Matt Cartas said.

Senior William Ford said that in their earlier years, the Soroco players had grown so accustomed to losing that they became numb to being defeated.

Losing close games to Meeker and Rangely, however, has proven to be more painful than losing by 40 points ever was, senior C.J. Remick said.

This summer, Soroco players went to camps, held camps and worked together on becoming a better team. Quarterback Kory Babcock said he’s noticed a huge difference between being a junior and being a senior.

“You care a little bit more,” he said. “You have more pride.”

If the Rams have generated more pride within the team, they have certainly sparked a sense of school spirit in South Routt, as well. Fans fill the stands at the Oak Creek field and even travel when Soroco plays away games. When the Rams beat their hands on their pads before a kickoff, the fans stomp in unison.

Photo and newspaper clippings hang throughout the school, and Babcock dedicates touchdowns to the school’s “lunch ladies.”

“It’s good to have fan support,” senior Jack Means said. “Our stands have been packed.”

Soroco has a shot at finishing with a winning regular season record tonight, which means a lot to this senior class. And they’ve come too far to overlook a West Grand team sitting at 1-7.

“We’re not taking this game lightly at all,” Heide said. “They may be 1-7, but they won’t play that way.”


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