New beginnings for Soroco teams set tone for strong year
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Dick Dudas is always thinking about his team.
When he’s watching his Ohio State Buckeyes, Dudas will take mental notes of plays he likes.
In the summertime, he’ll sit out on his back porch on a hill that overlooks the town of Oak Creek. He’ll close his eyes, reaching into the pockets of his brain to recall the Buckeyes’ plays, adapting them to 8-man football.
Aug. 24: vs. South Park, W 60-38
Sept. 1: at Sangre de Cristo, W 60-20
Sept. 8: at Justice, W 64-16
Sept. 22: at Gilpin County, W 54-8
Sept. 28: vs. Plateau Valley, W 64-46
Oct. 5: at Vail Christian, L 74-66
Oct. 12: vs. Rangely, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19: at West Grand, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26: vs. Hayden, 7 p.m.
“I go to the QBs and I say, ‘I have this thought, can you get your brain around that?’” Dudas said. “If they say, ‘no,’ then we scrap it, if they say, ‘yes,’ then we take it to the whole team.”
Dudas won’t mention how many plays he’s drawn up over his four years of coaching; that’s a secret. But there’s a lot, especially since the makeup of his team drastically changes from year to year.
“When you lose 11 in 8-man football, most teams would be in the toilet,” Dudas said. “But we’re not going to be.”
The Rams fell to the West Grand Mustangs 38-28 in last year’s semifinal. It was the first year the Rams had won a playoff game since 1967 and the first time ever that they’d won more than two.
“As a team, last year, we set a new standard for Soroco football,” senior running back Jace Logan said. “So, we’re going to continue to work hard with our young team and just try to keep going one game at a time and see how far we make it.”
Senior tailback Jesse Amrein can’t get the image of that state semifinal out of his mind. It was a cold afternoon in Oak Creek. Six inches of snow blanketed the ground as the community rallied together with four-wheeler snowplows and shovels to clear off the field for the game.
Members of the community cooked a breakfast at the high school just before packing the stands at Soroco’s football field.
“I’ve grown up coming to football games, and I’ve never seen as many people in the stadium as I did when we played West Grand last year for the last time.” Amrein said.
Logan snapped back to reality, afraid the two of them are getting ahead of themselves.
“We’re not going to say we’re going to state yet,” Logan said. “Our first goal is to win Friday night against South Park.”
The hardest part about coming off a historic year is the lingering starvation for the next step — state.
“We’re trying to hold these guys off, because they want to peak Friday night — these guys want to hit all the time and that risks injury,” Dudas said.
Last year’s team was full of size and power. This one is physically smaller but quicker on its feet.
The blocking strategy is different. Dudas is emphasizing a more angled blocking strategy for the smaller line. The plays are different, and a new quarterback in sophomore Tyler Wixom could open up more of a passing game. But first, the running game must be established.
The default is to hand the ball to Logan, one of the best in the state, and a junior All-American honoree. He racked up 3,300 yards and 47 touchdowns.
But Dudas isn’t trying to burn him or anyone else on the team with reps.
“What I want at each position is double strength — four guards, two centers, four wide receivers, so I can say, ‘OK, whoever does happen to start, give me everything you’ve got for as long as you can,’” Dudas said. “‘Raise your hand, and we’ll pull one pair out and put the next pair in.”
Aggression has never been the problem. The Rams are known for their hard hits and toughness.
“Just having ranch-raised kids, it’s a lot more tough than kids who say, ‘Oh, my ankle hurts,’ just so they don’t have to run,” Amrein said. “You practice better with tough kids like that.”
Outside the Xs and Os, Dudas came up with a team-bonding idea called the three Hs. He picks a different person on the team the day before each practice, asking them to stand in front of the team and share their hero, hardship and highlight after practice.
“I find we know each other, but not that much,” Dudas said. “And the better you know the guy beside you, the harder you’re going to play for him. We’ve found some stuff about the kids like home life, and the whole team has bonded tighter than any other team.”
Across the field, senior Truman Anarella is sprinting toward the finish of a 400-meter dash at cross country practice.
The former quarterback elected not to play football this year, and joining cross country was a spontaneous decision.
“I was in here for basketball, and one day, they were running at the same time as my basketball ended and I said, ‘I swear I’m not joining,’” Anarella said. “And I was like, ‘You know what? I can do this.’”
Aug. 25: Basalt
Sept. 1: Lake County
Sept. 8: Saint Vrain, 8:15 a.m.
Sept. 15: Middle Park
Sept. 22: West Grand, 10 a.m.
Sept. 25: Home at Rossi Meadow, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 29: Moffat County
Oct. 6: Palisade
Oct. 11: Rifle
Oct. 19: Regionals in Delta
Oct. 27: State in Colorado Springs
Anarella ran at practice, and the team sent a video to their coach Callie Anderson, while she was on vacation. She eventually sent Anarella an e-mail, asking him to join the team.
Anarella is part of a larger growth on the cross country team, which went from two members in its inaugural season in 2014 to 13 this fall.
“Get a couple people placing at state a couple of years in a row, it generates interest,” Anderson said. “I’m thrilled to death this year.”
Anderson has been a big part of that, coaching the middle school team in 2013 before starting the high school program.
Since, then, Ben Kelley, one of the team’s two original members, has gone off to run at Columbia University, and senior Chloe Veilleux won a Class 2A state title in 2016 and placed sixth in 2017.
“Most of our success is because of her,” Veilleux said. “She’s just so tough, but she makes it fun at the same time. We’re always joking around and having fun, but we get the work done, and she’s usually running or working out in the weight room with us.”
Setting high goals is one thing, but achieving them is what Anderson gets done.
“We’re going for the regional title definitely,” Anderson said. “Chloe wants her state champion title back. Last year, she had some health stuff going on, so she wasn’t where she wanted to be. But she’s come back with a vengeance.”
The 13 members include eight girls and five boys, marking the first year the boys will be eligible to run full teams at any meet. At Class 2A meets, the top three score, but at larger meets, it’s the top four.
Although last year’s team had four boys and four girls, injuries would sometimes push their chances. Chloe’s brother Brad Veilleux hopes the boys can leave a mark on the program his senior year.
“I am pretty excited. I was trying to make it last year, but it was pretty hot at the regional meet,” Brad said. “But with a couple more boys, we can stick together and push each other more — we can make it.”
There’s strength in the youth on the Soroco varsity volleyball team.
A class of freshmen that head coach Jeannie Jo Logan has raised through summer camps and open gyms has finally arrived and kicked practice into high gear.
“I’m excited, there’s a lot of talent out here,” Logan said. “The first couple weeks of practice, the drills were at another level just because of the skill level amongst the freshman all the way up to the seniors. Now, it’s about developing that maturity with it, especially with the varsity play.”
Aug. 25: vs. Telluride, W 24-26, 25-17, 25-17, 24-26, 15-8
Aug. 25: vs. Roaring Fork L 28-26, 13-25, 22-25, 22-25
Aug 25: vs. Ridgeway W 25-7, 25-23, 25-24
Aug. 28: at Hayden W 12-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21, 15-6
Aug. 30: vs. Lake County L 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25
Sept. 4: vs. Vail Mountain L 19-25, 17-25, 12-25
Sept. 7: at DeBeque 17-25, 21-25, 19-25
Sept. 8: vs. Vail Christian W 25-17, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20
Sept. 13: vs. Caprock Academy W 25-19, 25-22, 20-25, 25-15
Sept. 18: at North Park L 12-25, 27-25, 13-25, 23-25
Sept. 22: at Dayspring Academy L 25-16, 22-25, 22-25, 25-27
Sept. 22: at Hoehne L 14-25, 17-25, 25-23, 16-25
Sept. 22: at Ignacio W 25-15, 22-25, 27-29, 25-12, 15-12
Sept. 28: vs. Plateau Valley L 21-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-19, 6-15
Sept. 29: vs. Hayden W 28-26,25-20, 29-27
Oct. 5: at Hotchkiss, 3 p.m.
Oct. 6: at Paonia, 11 a.m.
Oct. 12: vs. Rangley, 4 p.m.
Oct. 19: at West Grand, 4 p.m.
Oct. 20: at Meeker, 1 p.m.
The girls are expected to act, practice and carry themselves like champions.
“When things are off, I ask, ‘What do champions do?’” Logan said.
If she can harness a mature atmosphere, this freshmen class will provide the missing pieces to what used to be a predominately defensive-only team.
“We have some talented young hitters, which is special,” Katie Olinger said. “Our offense has struggled in the past.”
Katie plays on the back row with her sister Grace. The two have been top performers on the team for the past three years. Having strong hitters to practice with just allows more improvement.
“You’re the transition from defense to offense. You end the defense and start the offense,” Grace said.
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