Soroco quarterback Nick Paxton throws a ball through the offensive line during drills Wednesday. The question of who will replace Cody Miles is high on the list for the upcoming season for the Rams football team.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Soroco quarterback Nick Paxton throws a ball through the offensive line during drills Wednesday. The question of who will replace Cody Miles is high on the list for the upcoming season for the Rams football team.

Soroco High School football looking for a division title

Rams bring 5 starters back on each side of the ball

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2010 Soroco High School football schedule

Sept. 3 at Springer, N.M., 7 p.m.

Sept 10 vs. South Park, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17 vs. Plateau Valley, 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 at Vail Christian, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 vs. Justice, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 vs. Gilpin County, 7 p.m.

Oct. 15 at West Grand, 7 p.m.

Oct. 23 at North Park, 1 p.m.

— Success has a way of quieting detractors. But it’s also done something else to the Soroco High School football team.

The program’s turnaround the past two seasons in eight-man football now has created mighty expectations for the Rams.

A simple judgment and flip through statistics suggest Soroco might be rebuilding in its first year in the North Central 8-man division after being ineligible for the last postseason.

Gone are two stalwarts in Cody Miles and Alex Estes, spectacular athletes bound for stardom at the collegiate level. Miles is playing football at Fort Lewis College, and Estes is running track at Adams State College. The two combined for more than 3,800 total yards and 37 touchdowns last year.

But their success at Soroco has started to generate a new animal.

“I think a lot of people will think we’ll be down without those two,” said Rams senior David Strait, who along with his brother Ben appear to be next in line for a collegiate scholarship. “But it takes eight guys to win a football game.”

The Rams certainly could be the favorites to win the North Central Division. The team returns five starters on each side of the ball.

Jacob Hange, Michael Rossi, Ben and David Strait, Pie Lom­bardi and Tristan Palyo return from last season’s team.

Add in a bulked up Richard Gonzales and three capable quarterbacks looking to fill in for Miles, and that success has talks of a division championship banner going up in the gym.

“It’s important for our senior boys,” Rams coach David Bruner said. “There are a lot of naysayers out there that say we’re not going to be good. There are a lot of teams out there that think we’re not going to be very good. We’re going to be a lot better than people think we’re going to be. I have six seniors and they all played last year.”

Bruner said this year’s defense should be better than last year’s, particularly with the Strait brothers controlling the line on both sides of the ball.

Each brother worked diligently in the offseason — as did most of the team — to get bigger. The Strait brothers are both close to 210 pounds and look chiseled and imposing in uniform.

Gonzales — who played sparingly last season but certainly looks the part of a 1,000-yard running back — went into the summer at 150 pounds and came out at 170 pounds.

“We can make the playoffs,” Ben Strait said. “We’ve got younger guys but we’ve got talent everywhere. We’ve all just been working hard to do what we did last year.”

The team will have to be paced by its defense early on, with Bruner suggesting that the defense will have to score more.

Offensively, the Rams have sophomore Nick Paxton, junior Jaden Baker and senior Lom­­bardi battling at quarterback.

With the first game not scheduled until a 7 p.m. showdown Sept. 3 at Springer, N.M. — a trip funded by the Colorado Bar & Grill and Flat Tops Ranch Supply — Bruner’s confident there is time to find the right guy.

Baker and Lombardi each played last year, and Bruner said Paxton reminds him a lot of Miles as a sophomore.

Miles and Paxton also worked out together during the summer, with the former helping the latter on the finer points of playing the most important position on the field.

Even without Miles, Soroco will continue to run the spread offense and throw the ball around.

With a team built on defense and the success of the previous years, anything short of a league title might be a letdown.

But again, that’s just another byproduct of success — something that’s become commonplace with Soroco football.

“They’ve learned how to win now,” Bruner said. “They don’t like to lose, and that’s 90 percent of the battle.”

Key departures

QB/LB Cody Miles: Had 172 tackles on defense and 2,825 yards rushing and passing.

WR Alex Estes: Scored a team-high 21 touchdowns.

Key returners

Ben Strait: A big part of the offensive line who also had 34 tackles on defense.

David Strait: Had 156 tackles on defense.

Jacob Hange: Caught 40 passes for 579 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Key game

Oct. 1 vs. Justice

This game very well could decide the division championship. The two teams are the most highly regarded and each has a chance at the playoffs. Coach David Bruner said Justice will be the most athletic team Soroco plays all season. Playing them at home helps the Rams.

Keys questions

Who plays quarterback?

It’s a three-way battle between Pie Lombardi, Jaden Baker and Nick Paxton. The sophomore Paxton might have the most ability and reminds coaches of a young Cody Miles. How quick the quarterback develops could determine how far the team can go.

Can the defense carry the team early on?

Bruner said he thinks the defense will be better than it was last year. With Ben and David Strait, two of the better athletes in eight-man, patrolling sideline to sideline, the Rams defense will have to lead the way until the offense is able to catch up.

How will the team deal with expectations?

It wasn’t long ago that the Soroco football program seemed dead. But the past four years have seen a remarkable revival, culminating in last season’s 7-1 record. Soroco now enters the North Central Division as the favorite. If the Rams can handle those expectations, a playoff berth could be had.

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