The rally cry for Soroco's 2002 football season is commitment.
Though the word can loosely be defined in any number of ways, coach Gary Heide simplified it Thursday while watching his players go through drills.
"Either you're in or you're out," he said.
Unfortunately for the Rams, most have opted to stay out. While many boys spend months waiting for football practice to begin, the sport hasn't taken off in South Routt.
Tyson Gilleland, Dustin Neelis and Josh Iacovetto plan to do something about it in their senior campaign.
All three, along with senior Justin Spae, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier this month, lifted shoulders, arms, chest, legs and any other muscle group they could find this offseason, seven times a week sometimes.
Gilleland admits winning games is the only way to attract more bodies, but if winning equivocates to participation, what made those three and the roughly 20 others out running through the rain and hail on Thursday stick with football?
"We've been through this since we were freshmen," they answered simply. "This is the year we've been waiting for."
Complete with a varsity schedule for the first time in two seasons, the seniors plan to make noise in Class 2A this fall. There aren't many boys out for football Neelis thought the 23 out represented 20 percent of the boys at Soroco but those that did decide to play football expect opponents to underestimate the Rams and pay dearly for it.
"Basically, what I want them to believe is that they need to go in with the same confidence no matter who they are playing," Heide said. "The game can be fun if played with passion and commitment. On any given day an underdog can beat any other team. You still have to be prepared to play a team that has speed and hits hard."
The Rams have both. In fact, they spent Thursday hitting anyone teammates with pads, coaches without pads in a way that would make even their mascot proud.
"Practices are a lot more intense," Neelis said. "They are pushing us more than in previous years."
Not only is an attitude change expected by the coaching staff, Heide went and concocted a new defense as well. While researching possibilities in books, he came across a defense that used six linemen three of which are essentially linebackers on the line of scrimmage, standing straight up ready to find the ball, preferably in the quarterback's hands.
"It uses linebacker types with speed," he said, glancing at his team. "I took it to the coaches this year and all agreed and said, 'Why not?'"
It seems a sure way to go. With many players physically chiseled from work in the weight room and on the ranch, Heide has athletes first and football players second. He must make them see they can be both because many will have to play both ways.
"I believe what they need to learn is how to play with discipline, passion, integrity and commitment," Heide said.
On Thursday, three tires were rolled out onto the field and lines formed behind them. The seniors and juniors had a tire weighted down by sand and dirt. The object was to flip the tire down 30 yards and back 30 yards before handing it off to a teammate. The juniors and seniors lost the relay race. They didn't complain. They just lifted, and when they were the only ones left, the sophomores and freshmen came over to cheer them on.
Neelis and Iacovetto were pretty sure no one else was doing that drill in practice, not West Grand or schools such as Meeker or Rangely that moved down from 3A to 2A in perfect time to meet Soroco.
"We lost just two starters, so we are optimistic about our team," Heide said. "We have three seniors that have been here for every practice and show good leadership."
When asked to put this year's theme into words, the three seniors on hand for Thursday's practice had slightly different versions.
"Commitment is just being there for the team," Neelis said. "Just being a part of it."
"Commitment is not making excuses," Iacovetto said. "And making sure you're at all the practices."
"Commitment is giving 110 percent," Gilleland said.
Three have it down, and the plan is to make sure the other 20 figure it out as well.
To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org