Saturday, August 31, 2002
Oak Creek Soroco coach Gary Heide isn't giving up on his young team, and he's hoping they feel the same after a 27-3 loss to Rifle's junior varsity squad Saturday evening in Oak Creek.
Oversized and outnumbered, the Rams were unable to contain the Bears' rushing attack and had a difficult time establishing one of their own en route to the season-opening defeat.
"This was a good football team," Heide said of Rifle. "They have a good program. We have a long ways to go, but I still have faith and I want them to believe that, too."
Blessed with rich tradition and success over the years, Heide expected Rifle's JV team to be a similar version to its varsity team just less experienced. Except for the three turnovers and two other sloppy fumbles that weren't lost, the Bears proved to be as good and as disciplined as expected, particularly quarterback Kyle Sanderson and running back Rocky Raman, who provided a one-two knockout punch on offense.
Sanderson passed for 168 yards and one touchdown while rushing for another. Raman compiled 169 all-purpose yards to go with two rushing touchdowns, the second being a 53-yard run that essentially assured his team of victory after Soroco had pulled to within 10 off a Dustin Neelis 27-yard field goal at the 7:41-mark in the third quarter.
Missed blocking assignments and misguided routes caused much of the Rams' confusion on offense Saturday. Forced to play from behind all game and unable to get the running game going, Soroco junior Kory Babcock, a first-time starter at quarterback, had little choice but to go to the air in an effort to lead his team from behind in the second half, which led to two drive-killing, fourth-quarter interceptions.
Following the game, Heide pulled his young quarterback aside to remind him no individual takes the praise for a victory or the blame for a defeat. Babcock's senior teammate Tyson Gilleland said Babcock is the kid to have behind center.
"He shouldn't blame himself," Gilleland said. "Once he gets the confidence, he'll do fine."
Actually, Gilleland said confidence is something the entire team could use a good dose of. Having not played a varsity schedule in two years because of low numbers and the inability to be competitive, Soroco doesn't have much tradition to pull from. This year's squad, however, has the athleticism and speed to surprise people if everyone executes their assignments on both sides of the ball.
The defense tried through the first half, essentially giving up only two big plays one which resulted in a touchdown while forcing two fumbles and recovering both.
It wasn't until the third quarter when Neelis punched a short field goal through the uprights that Soroco's offense capitalized on its opportunistic defense.
"They were a very good team," Gilleland said. "I thought we played well against their size."
Heide felt the same and pointed to fatigue as reasons for Rifle's second-half output, particularly toward the end of the third quarter and through the duration of the final 12 minutes.
"We had some players that played absolutely every play of the game," Heide said. "Some got a little nicked up, but they wouldn't come out of the game."
The 27-3 defeat does go in the loss column, but Heide and Gilleland were already looking forward to their Saturday meeting with Center at Viking Field, saying the chances of winning that one were much higher.
Now they must remind the rest of the Rams there is a lot of football left to be played in the 2002 season.
To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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