Thursday, September 12, 2002
Steamboat Springs Mike Johnson sees Grand Valley in Soroco.
Three years ago he became the coach of a Cardinals program lacking direction and discipline. He started his players on a weightlifting regimen and took them to the University of Wyoming's football camp. Grand Valley's record went from 2-16 in the inaugural year to 15-1 this summer.
Now, he feels the Cardinals a run first, pass second team could be a sleeper in the Western Slope League.
"We've got a competitive team," Johnson said. "We're a lot better. It's that one disadvantage that everyone and their dog came back down to our league."
Soroco is just pleased to be back in a league after taking a two-year hiatus from varsity action because of lack of numbers.
The Rams and the Cardinals welcome Rangely, Meeker and Paonia to Class 1A this season, but both teams remain focused on each other in tonight's league opener at 7:30 p.m. at Calahan Field in Parachute.
Gary Heide and the Rams have caught Johnson's attention.
"It looks like Soroco's kids play hard," Johnson said. "They aren't as bad as I thought they'd be coming off a JV schedule with a new coach. They're tough kids. They're lacking quite a bit on size, but I remember being there. I can tell what (Heide's) trying to do. I've seen his offense and defensive philosophies. They are pretty far along."
Soroco (1-1) is coming off a dominating 36-6 win over Center on Sept. 7, which served as a confidence booster for a young Soroco team, Heide said. However, he added that last Saturday's game was one the Rams entered with an excellent shot to win.
Heide feels his team has a chance to win tonight as well, though he knows Grand Valley is improved from its 2001 season in which it went 2-7 overall and 1-5 in league play. Grand Valley is 2-0 after defeating Aspen and Glenwood Springs JV this year.
Regardless of the name on the front of the jersey, the Rams are focused on themselves.
"This week we'll try to take a step forward in our passing game," Heide said. "As each week goes by, we expect to be more proficient. I want to always create new things to put in our offense but I want to make sure the things we bring to the table (tonight) are things we know well."
Building a program takes a couple years, Johnson said, and he thinks Heide and the Rams are on their way. Players need time to form a rapport with coaches, each other and the playbooks. It doesn't happen overnight, but try telling high school kids victories don't just fall from the sky. Heide knows Soroco has to practice and play extra hard to win and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I feel if we play our best and protect the ball we can win this game," he said. "I want the kids to have the same confidence and expectations in every game."
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