Come next fall, there will actually be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Soroco High School football team.
After suffering through two years of postseason ineligibility while playing 8-man football, the squad will be able to qualify for the playoffs starting next season.
“We’re super excited,” Soroco football coach David Bruner said. “We are already started working for next year, and the kids are talking about how this time next year, they still want to be playing.”
The Colorado High School Activities Association gives postseason eligibility in two-year increments. Thanks to a significantly lower school enrollment, the Rams definitely are in for 2010 and 2011.
They were left out in 2008 and 2009 because they failed to meet either of the criteria established to join one of the state’s 8-man football divisions.
Schools had to have fewer than 125 students or have sustained a winning percentage of less than .200 for the four years leading up to the proposed drop in classification.
Soroco logged in eight students more than the limit when CHSAA last tabulated enrollment numbers before the 2008 season.
Still, the previous four years of competition in the 11-man football Western Slope League had been a miserable enough experience that Soroco decided to drop down regardless of its playoff opportunities. The squad went winless in the league in 2006 and 2007, winning just one varsity game during that span.
As bad as that was, it wasn’t bad enough. A 4-4 record and playoff appearance in 2005 buoyed the Rams’ winning percentage during the four-year period to .207, leaving the program barely too good to get a crack at the 8-man playoffs.
The football team has established itself as a force to contend with since dropping down to 8-man. The team went 4-4 in its inaugural campaign last season and then took an undefeated record and a lead into the final quarter of its last game this fall, only losing late in that contest to also-unblemished Norwood.
Fortunately for Soroco’s future football fortunes, the school’s enrollment dropped well below the 125 limit, to 107, and next time it goes 7-0 through the first part of the season, a playoff spot will be almost assured.
“We took a hard look at our potential enrollment (before deciding to drop down), and we are right where we thought we’d be,” Athletic Director Andy Johnson said. “In the interest of being able to maintain a program, dropping down was the best thing.”
Bruner said it was a program-saving decision.
Soroco suited up just 13 players and started four freshmen through sections of its final 11-man season, an 0-7 campaign that featured an average margin of defeat of 34 points.
In 2009, the program had 25 players and won by an average of nearly 24 points.
“If we had stayed at 11-man, we would have been suiting up 13 to 15 kids, and it would have been tough,” Bruner said. “It probably did save the program.”
The only question that remains is what division Soroco will be assigned to.
There are two realistic options. The Western division features some of the class’s top competition, but the schools are concentrated in the southwestern corner of the state and would lead the Rams on road trips as long as nine hours.
The Central division, featuring schools including North Park and Vail Christian, could also be an option.
CHSAA will announce the division assignments for 2010 and 2011 on Nov. 24.