The heart of a Ram: Soroco’s senior quarterback stays to cheer on his team after injury

Jed Kirby, the starting quarterback for the Soroco High School football team, leads second string quarterback Joey McLaughlin to the locker rooms for halftime. Kirby got hurt early, and McLaughlin took over during a game against Rangely on Friday night.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

OAK CREEK — Soroco High School senior quarterback Jed Kirby left the game against Rangely in the second quarter. He was assessed on the sidelines then led away from the field.

Head coach Johnny DeCosta asked where his quarterback went and was told Kirby could not play.

“I need him on the sideline,” DeCosta said.

Kirby hadn’t left yet. He was stubborn and loyal to his team, putting the Rams’ needs over his own health. He returned to the sidelines and cheered on his team through the remainder of the 46-0 loss Friday night.

“It’s what I preach. Leadership wins championships,” Kirby said. “People say offense wins championships. People say defense wins championships. My saying is leadership wins championships. … It’s about coming together as family, it’s about being a leader, and it’s about leading your team to be the best they can be.”

When Kirby got hurt, Soroco was down three scores. It was unlikely he would miss a comeback if he left, but perhaps the deficit was all the more reason to stay. The Rams needed their leader to help keep their heads up.

“That’s huge leadership for our team,” junior Bradley Hoskinson said. “We have some people that maybe wouldn’t do that. Jed doing that for our team, it brought a lot of heart to our team and intensity.”

Kirby cheered, “Let’s go boys” as if he were simultaneously walking on a thinly frozen lake and had to be delicate with his actions. He had tears in his eyes as he firmly but quietly encouraged his team.

Jed Kirby, senior quarterback for the Soroco High School football team, got injured early during a game against Rangely on Friday night. He was clearly hurting but stuck around to help his team through the evening.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Kirby was straddling a thin line between strength and safety. More than once, he was asked if he wanted to leave. DeCosta encouraged it at one point.

“There were times I did want him there, but other times, I was like, ‘Maybe he should go, because I’ve never seen him like this,'” DeCosta said.

But Kirby stayed, keeping warm by wearing a long maroon Rams football jacket on the sidelines. He didn’t jump or scream or wave his arms in the air, but he watched every play.

‘He’s the glue’

With Kirby out, senior Joey McLaughlin was under center and literally took the game into his own hands. He ran the ball often after searching for an open receiver, and McLaughlin suffered for it. The Panthers lit him up, crashing into the quarterback on every play.

McLaughlin got up slow clutching his knee and hobbled to the sidelines. Junior Lucas Koler was the next man up at quarterback. He commanded the offense for a few snaps before McLaughlin returned.

The senior second-string QB continued to take a beating. On the last play of the half, he kept the ball and was tackled awkwardly. He stepped to the sideline and lay on the frost-covered ground.

As the rest of the Rams retreated to the locker room, Kirby comforted McLaughlin. Kirby lifted his teammate from the ground, held his hand and led a limping McLaughlin to the rest of the Rams.

At the half, Soroco was down 38-0. When Kirby walked into the locker room with McLaughlin in tow, the Rams were looking to him for guidance.

Kirby told them that they just have to play football, be the athletes they are and make plays without him.

“Are you athletes?” he asked.

“Yes,” the Rams responded.

“Are you athletes?” he repeated.

“Yes!” the Rams responded.

Despite going down 46-0 and facing a running clock, the Soroco football team made plays, just like Kirby told them to. Big plays broke through, but the Rams defense stifled the Panthers and put them in situations where they faced 10, 15 and 20 yards for a first down.

In the final two minutes, lineman and defensive force Chris Ramos got hurt. As the coaches and paramedics evaluated the injury, Kirby gathered the offense around him.

“He’s the glue on this team,” DeCosta said. “Everybody looks to him. When I was out there with Chris, he put together the offense. I didn’t have to come back. He had everybody lined up how they were going to go, what they were going to play, what they were going to do. He knows the team just as good as me, if not better.”

McLaughlin was out, and Koler stepped up as quarterback. The last three plays of the game he connected with receivers for first downs, drawing whoops and claps from the sideline and the fans.

“Honestly, this is the happiest I’ve been with a 46 to nothing loss, because we showed signs of life,” DeCosta said. “We played together as a team in that second half.”

Rangely 46, Soroco 0

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