Hayden Tigers coach Shawn Baumgartner focused his practices this week simply on playing as hard as possible. The Tigers did that Friday night for the homecoming game, but the visiting Soroco Rams played just a bit harder, defeating the Tigers 20-6.
The Rams put on an onslaught of a running game, led by senior C.J. Remick, who averaged 6.7 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns.
"He was a horse," Soroco coach Gary Heide said. But the coach and Remick agreed it was the offensive line that was the real story of their success. The offensive line includes Nick Rangel, Whit Gates, Joe Crawford, Matt Iacovetto and Denis Luark.
"The line was just knocking people over," Remick said. "There would be a bunch of people, then there would be nobody."
Remick said he had extra desire to win this game, because he had missed playing against Hayden in two previous games because of injuries.
But the Tigers defended well, especially in the first quarter, stuffing a fourth down play on their own 5-yard line, and shutting the Rams out until the final two minutes of the second quarter, when Remick scored a touchdown on a 4-yard rush.
The Tigers came alive on offense, as well, fighting back with a mix of passing and rushing that kept the Soroco defense guessing. Hayden sophomore quarterback Keenan Bruchez and wide receiver Evan Hilling seemed to be connecting better than in the beginning of the season.
"We've been playing together since the seventh grade," Bruchez said.
"He knows how I run, and I know how he throws," Hilling said.
In the beginning of the second half, Bruchez connected with Hilling on a 20-yard pass, and two plays later, with an 11-yard pass in the end zone, tying the game at six apiece. After a 5-yard false-start penalty, the Tigers missed the extra point and the opportunity to take the lead.
The Tigers got going again, sustaining a long drive, ending with a 20-yard run by Cam Whiteman, who fumbled the ball at the last second. Whiteman said he got hit so hard, he didn't know how the ball came loose.
"We talked about not giving up the big play, and then we gave up that one that put the game out of reach for us," Baumgartner said.
The Rams capitalized. Remick scored again for the Rams, and after a Hayden fumble in the fourth quarter, Soroco scored again when Kory Babcock followed blockers 79 yards for another touchdown, sealing the deal for the Rams.
"This game was so important for us, so that we could stay in the playoff hunt," Heide said.