Shortly after Meeker running back Sean O'Brien stormed into the end zone for the Cowboys' second touchdown of the first quarter Friday night, Soroco coach Gary Heide called his players to the sideline.
"We were at that same point last year and we just folded. Meeker went on to score 50 points in that game," Heide said. "So I just asked my players if they planned on folding."
The coach didn't have to hear the answer -- it showed in the Rams' play from that point.
Soroco's defense shut out the powerful Meeker offense in the next three quarters. Though the Oak Creek team lost 21-14, Soroco more than proved itself against the state's second-ranked team.
The Cowboys' only other points of the game came when O'Brien tipped a Kory Babcock pass at the line of scrimmage, intercepted it and scampered 30 yards into the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning score.
"Our players had a great game and they have nothing to be ashamed of," Heide said. "We had a chance to win this game all the way to the end, and I don't think I could have asked any more from my players."
Meeker's Justin Jacob, who carried the ball 12 times for 161 yards, led the Cowboys' offensive attack. His biggest carry of the night came in the first quarter when he broke a 93-yard run to set up a Casey Sullivan touchdown with 4 minutes, 56 seconds left in the first.
Sullivan, the Meeker quarterback, finished the game with just three completions for 57 yards. He also had one interception.
O'Brien scored Meeker's second touchdown with 9 seconds remaining in the quarter.
But after giving up 161 rushing yards in the first half (most of them in the first quarter), Soroco's defense allowed just 73 yards in the second half.
In fact, the Rams led in almost every statistical category, but the final score.
Soroco piled up 345 yards of total offense including 197 on the ground and 148 in the air. The Rams also had more first downs and controlled the time of possession.
However, it took the Rams three quarters of play to score.
Soroco's first score of the game came late in the third quarter when Jack Means powered past the Meeker defense to make the score 14-7.
Means carried the ball 17 times for 50 yards, but played a key role in the Rams' offensive attack, Heide said.
Heide said his efforts opened lanes for Andy deGanahl, who carried the ball 10 times for 85 yards, and C.J. Remick, who added 81 yards on 11 carries. Babcock was 6-for-10 passing.
Babcock's only mistake, an interception early in the fourth quarter, proved costly. O'Brien swatted the ball high into the air, caught it and returned it for a touchdown. The score left the Rams down 21-7 early in the fourth quarter.
But the Rams didn't fold.
Babcock came back to throw a 73-yard touchdown to speedster deGanahl to pull the Rams to within a touchdown in the closing minutes.
Soroco's defense held and gave the team one past shot at the upset. But the final Soroco drive stalled on fourth down at the 22-yard line.
"As a coach you want your team to win the game," Heide said. "But my players walked off the field after this game with a new confidence. Now they realize they can play with anybody in the league and that they should expect to win."
The coach will find out just how much that confidence is worth Saturday when Soroco hosts Plateau Valley at 1:30 p.m. in the homecoming game.
Soroco will need to win the game if it has any hopes of making it to the postseason.
"This is a monumental game for our program," Heide said. "I know our players will be ready to go."
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