Rams football to face toughest challenge

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What: Soroco football (5-0) vs. Dove Creek (5-0)

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Soroco High School

— Soroco's 5-0 start to its second season of 8-man football has blazed unfamiliar ground for the team that just two years ago struggled to beat even junior varsity squads.

The Rams have an opportunity to take another step toward establishing themselves as an 8-man program to contend with. They'll welcome one of the division's top powerhouses at 7 p.m. today for the homecoming game in Oak Creek.

Dove Creek, which went undefeated through the regular season a year ago before losing in the opening round of the postseason playoffs, is off to another 5-0 start.

The Bulldogs squished Soroco a year ago, 59-22, and if the Rams are to prove they're for real in 2009, they'll need a better performance.

"Last year we went down there, and it got ugly," Soroco coach David Bruner said. "They really put it to us, and our boys have that in their heads. This is just another chance for us to take a step forward."

Both teams are convinced that once they get on the field, they'll have their hands full.

Dove Creek coach Ken Soper said he remembers last season's game well, but not because it was an easy victory. Instead, one player dominates his recollection.

"They're a real tough team, and we know that they have that outstanding quarterback," he said. "We know we're in for a heck of a ballgame."

To counter Soroco's Cody Miles, who has proven capable passing the ball, on designed running plays and scrambling away from broken pass attempts, the Bulldogs will rely on their linebacker corps and defensive ends. Soper said his linebackers have been the backbone of a defense that's allowed fewer than 10 points per game.

Justin Guynes leads the unit at middle linebacker.

"We're basically new all the way around. We lost every starter except one, and that was Justin, one of our starting linebackers," Soper said. "It's tough against a guy like (Miles) because you don't have that many men up front because (Soroco) will spread everyone out. You have to have some real good ends who can box him in and make sure he can't go up the middle."

Guynes is one of the keys to Dove Creek's offense, too. The hard-nosed I-formation running attack the Bulldogs rely on features the senior. He's made the most of the opportunity, averaging 180 yards per game on the ground.

"They give him the ball about 80 percent of the time," Bruner noted. "We'll have our hands full. He's a strong kid, a good football player."

It's an effort that will have to be made without a few of the Rams' top players from the first month of the season.

The team lost junior offensive lineman and defensive end Ben Strait for the season two weeks ago, and this week, Soroco learned it would be without the services of one of its four seniors.

Matt Watwood injured an ankle and is out for the season.

Watwood proved a reliable go-to receiver early in the year and had nailed down the team's kicking and punting duties.

Miles, another of the seniors along with running back Alex Estes and offensive lineman Gage Achtner, also was hobbled with a leg injury in practice.

Freshman A.J. Anderson will replace Watwood on special teams after hitting both of his extra point opportunities last week. Still, Bruner said the loss of Watwood might change the way Soroco does business.

"We will probably end up going for two more," he said. "Losing Matt really hurts us. He's a big kid and a great kicker and punter."

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