The importance of tonight's Soroco football game against Rangely is magnified by the teams' league standings.
The top four teams in the Western Slope advance to the playoffs, and the Rams, at 1-3 in the league, are in sixth place -- but not necessarily out of the postseason picture.
Rangely is one of the teams ahead of Soroco. With a win tonight against the Panthers, the Rams close to within one game of Rangely. However, Grand Valley and Plateau Valley, which already lost to Soroco, will finish the regular season with games against league powers Paonia and Meeker, so both may drop back into the pack.
"We would need some help but we aren't going to let the dream die yet," Rams coach Gary Heide said.
Paonia, which is leading the league at 4-0, overpowered the Rams last weekend, but Rangely takes the field tonight with a team better matched to Soroco.
Both the Rams and Panthers possess overall team speed in the running game and on defense. Whereas Meeker and Paonia line up and run right at defenses, Rangely is a team that can beat opponents anywhere on the field, in the air and on the ground, Heide said.
"Rangely's strong point is the quickness of its backs," Heide said. "They try to get to the outside, and they have two good wide receivers the quarterback will throw to if they are covered or not."
The last time Soroco was on its home field was Sept. 27 when it defeated Plateau Valley to win its first league game in four years. It was an important first step for the Rams in asserting themselves as formidable Western Slope opponents.
The next step came in proving they could compete with Meeker and Paonia. Now, Heide said, the next step is beating a talented league foe.
"We're looking forward to this game," he said. "We want to get a feather in our hat, so to speak. We've played some good teams and had some close games, and we want to win one of those."
After defeating Meeker 28-14 last weekend, Rangely enters the 7:30 p.m. game in Oak Creek on a three-game string against the bottom three teams in the league to finish out the season.
Heide hopes the Rams may catch the Panthers a little overconfident after they earned a top-10 state ranking for last week's win against the Cowboys.
"We want to come out and hit on all cylinders and work hard on defense," Heide said. "Rangely is football fast, and we have to be in the right position to make plays."