Soroco football can’t hold off West Grand in title-deciding tilt
Oak Creek — A wet week and a freezing cold night made the Soroco High School football field in Oak Creek crunch under the feet Friday night. It wasn’t the cold that left the Rams numb after a crushing 16-6 loss to West Grand, however.
The Rams were right there, less than six minutes away. The Mustangs scored both their touchdowns in the game’s final minutes and in one stroke wrecked Soroco’s hopes and forced the team into a long road trip for next weekend’s cross-divisional postseason round.
“We were so close to winning the division, winning our conference for the first time in 25 years,” senior Andrew Herzog said. “That makes it that much more painful.”
Soroco, playing without three starters including quarterback Matt Regan, took a 6-0 lead in the first half on a 6-yard Ryan Jeep run. Then it held on, unable to expand its lead but always able to stuff West Grand’s attempts to catch back up.
Finally, with 5:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, Mustang senior quarterback Nick Ritschard ran in from 5 yards out. He also carried in the two-point conversion, and West Grand had the lead it needed.
“I was nervous,” Ritschard said. “We finally got started with it, and then we got going with it.”
A Soroco win would have crowned the Rams the East-Central division champs, but the loss was costly. It drops them to 2-2 in the division and into fourth place. Vail Christian, 3-1 after a win Friday in Hayden, won the division while West Grand, also 3-1, finishes second via a tiebreaker. Rangely then beats out Soroco with a tiebreaker for third place.
West Grand and Vail Christian will host intradivision games next week against the East-Black Forest division’s third- and fourth-place teams while Rangely and Soroco will travel, with the Rams drawing that division’s champ, undefeated Simla.
Plenty about Friday night’s game compounds the frustration for the Rams. They were on the verge of building on their lead on several occasions, sitting with prime opportunities inside the red zone, but penalties and turnovers helped stop the offense.
One drive stalled at the 3-yard line as time expired in the first half. Another got as deep as the 21 but ended in an interception. A third, propelled by a huge fourth-down reverse by Carl Rossi, ended on a fourth-down incomplete pass after the Rams got as far as the 19.
West Grand took over after that drive, gained momentum on a 44-yard Ritschard-to-Casey Gore pass, and scored to take the lead five plays later.
Soroco moved the ball efficiently between the 20-yard lines all night long, with Jeep, who took over most of the quarterback duties, and Ian Palyo plowing through the Mustangs for big games. They couldn’t do the same near the goal line, however.
“We had three starters out of the game. Our kids played well without those kids. I was really pleased,” David Bruner said. “We had chances to win. If we had scored on those drives, we would have won. That’s what we were able to do against Hayden that we weren’t able to do tonight.”
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