Pigskin playoff payoff

Postseason on the line for Hayden, Soroco on Friday

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Berths in the Class A football playoffs will be on the line for both teams when Hayden and Soroco meet Friday.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Hayden High School.

For the Hayden Tigers (6-2 overall, 4-2 in the Western Slope League), the scenario is simple: Win, and they're in.

The Soroco Rams (5-3, 3-3) need a little help.

Soroco must win, but it also needs Meeker to defeat Grand Valley on Friday. If both happen, the Rams would get the third and final playoff spot because they defeated Hayden and Meeker earlier this season.

But Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner and Soroco coach Gary Heide are more focused on game preparation than postseason scenarios. After all, Soroco and Hayden are cross-county rivals.

"Our first meeting Monday morning, I told them the facts but told them that's the last we were going to talk about it," Heide said. "All we are worried about is leaving our best game on the field."

With most fall sports done, those in Routt County who haven't seen the Soroco or Hayden football teams play might want to make the drive to Hayden.

The Rams have one of the best running attacks in the state. Senior Nick Rangel is nearing the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He's rushed for 989 yards and is averaging 6.4 yards a carry. Teammate Bryan Spaeth, a sophomore, is 13th in rushing in Class A with 804 yards and an 8 yards-a-carry average. Junior quarterback Johnny DeCosta and junior Jon Cole are dangerous runners, as well.

Heide said this is the first time in four years that Hayden and Soroco have a chance to make the playoffs in the regular season finale.

"That is a huge, huge game," Baumgartner said. "We have to beat Soroco."

The Tigers will counter with one of the most prolific passing attacks in Class A. The Tigers have accumulated 1,278 yards passing this season, with senior quarterback Keenan Bruchez accounting for 1,048 yards.

In addition, Bruchez and freshman running back Coy Letlow are averaging 6.1 yards a carry. Heide thinks Hayden's passing game will be the best Soroco has seen all season.

"When Keenan was a sophomore, they struggled with it, but they stuck with it," Heide said. "(Running the offense) for three straight years has made them great."

The key to Friday's game -- as always -- is turnovers. In addition, the Rams will have to dominate time of possession, which is possible with their clock-control running game. Soroco will be bolstered by the return of lineman Dennis Morgan, who sat out last week's game with a concussion.

Hayden, on the other hand, will try to establish a passing game that has been difficult to stop. With its big-play potential, the receivers will help open up Hayden's running game.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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