Oak Creek The price of having a senior-dominated team is the holes the graduates leave behind.
Last year, the Soroco football team enjoyed its finest season in more than a decade, earning a playoff spot for the first time since 1988.
The Rams had 10 seniors last season, and all were important to the 2003 success. They left behind what coach Gary Heide may consider the most important theme of all: a winning attitude.
"This is the first year they've gotten on the field and will go out and expect to win games no matter who they play," he said.
The 2004 Soroco football team has nine seniors and is bolstered by the return of three of the five starting offensive linemen, including senior Whittier Gates, an all-league selection last year. A fourth player, Matt Iacovetto, returns as well, but Heide has moved Iacovetto into the Rams' backfield.
"I think we'll do well," Gates said. "We're short juniors, but we have a lot of seniors."
And a team usually develops its identity through the leadership of the seniors, its coach and often, its defense.
"Our defense will be just as quick, maybe quicker, than last year," Heide said.
Where there is some uncertainty is on offense. Soroco has to replace veterans at all its skill positions, including quarterback.
Senior Zach Schaffner steps in to replace Kory Babcock, a proven leader and all-league selection. Schaffner said he is ready to assume command of the huddle.
"I didn't work a whole lot with the first team last year, (just) a couple times," he said. "But it's been a pretty easy transition. I think we'll be pretty balanced on offense."
As the Rams eye a repeat trip to the Class A playoffs, they know the four spots the Western Slope League was given in last year's playoffs has dwindled to three. The fewer number of postseason berths comes in a season in which the league has improved overall.
"I think it will come down to one or two games," Heide said.
Gates and returning lineman Denis Luark said perennial powers Meeker and Paonia lost a large number of players to graduation and figured Rangely, a semifinal team last season, would be the team to beat.
Last year, Soroco proved it could play with the likes of all three. This year, the Rams hope to continue that trend.
--To Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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