Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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This is Soroco's red-letter game.
It's the one Rams players, coaches and fans circled, highlighted and looked at prior to the season.
Come Friday at 7 p.m., the 7-0 Soroco football team will meet the 7-0 Norwood team at Soroco High School.
When Soroco coach David Bruner talked weeks ago about the season's outlook, he said there was potential for this game to be big.
But now it's bigger than just big. This is Soroco's state championship game. Because of Colorado High School Activities Association rules, when Soroco dropped from Class 1A to eight-man football, the team was placed on a two-year probationary period, essentially making the Rams ineligible for postseason play.
Well, in year two, there is something special brewing in South Routt - playoffs or not.
Sure, a perfect 8-0 season won't even get the Rams in the playoffs, but that's not really what this game is about.
Four years ago, the Soroco football program was nearly dead. The Rams struggled with numbers, which in turn led to huge struggles on the field.
But Bruner, who was the defensive coordinator four years ago, started building something. He got players to buy into his program.
It would have been easy for any of the Soroco players who were freshmen that year to give up.
But they didn't, and now the Rams have an opportunity to do something no South Routt team has done in a long time.
Bruner said the last time a Soroco team went undefeated was 1968.
But beyond that, nobody would have batted an eye if any of Soroco's four seniors or other players wanted to play in Steamboat or Hayden.
There, they could have had a chance to play in the postseason, and many Rams would have contributed in a big way as Sailors or Tigers.
But this football team has transcended the game. Interest in athletics - not just football - is at an all-time high at Soroco.
Part of that is Bruner's infectious personality and ability to get players to play hard for him.
But maybe the biggest reason is these players really believe they're part of something unique.
These Rams aren't just bonded because they're teammates.
No, the Rams firmly believe they're part of something bigger than just a football game on Friday night. They're leading the charge of an athletic program that at one point nearly died.
So when Norwood steps on the field Friday - the team's postseason bid already secured - Soroco will play one more time together.
The Rams will have a whole community cheering for them.
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org