A herd of Soroco Rams haul down South Park running back Kyle Baker on Friday night. Baker ran loose for parts of the game, but Soroco’s defense tightened and its offense caught fire, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points to win, 34-27.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

A herd of Soroco Rams haul down South Park running back Kyle Baker on Friday night. Baker ran loose for parts of the game, but Soroco’s defense tightened and its offense caught fire, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points to win, 34-27.

Soroco football rallies late to beat South Park, 34-27

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Game statistics

South Park (0-2)      0-13-14-0 — 27

Soroco (2-0)    0-7-6-21 — 34

Second quarter

Soroco 8:14     Michael Rossi 32-yard punt return      (AJ Anderson kick)

South Park      2:55     Cody Lane 8-yard pass from Connor Sims. (Pat Beaulieu kick.)

SP       1:13     Kyle Baker 41-yard run. (Kick fail.)

Third quarter

SP       10:54   Baker 31-yard run. (Kick fail.)

SP       2:13     Sims 10-yard run. (Sims pass from Baker.)

S          1:34     Nic Paxton 19-yard run. (Kick fail.)

Fourth quarter

S          11:15   Richard Gonzales 46-yard pass from Paxton. (Anderson kick.)

S          10:20   Safety, South Park snap out of back of end zone.

S          7:16     Anderson 6-yard pass from Paxton.

S          2:09     Jacob Hange 38-yard pass from Paxton.

— Picking the decisive play during Friday night’s high school football showdown between Soroco and South Park in Oak Creek could have made a fool out of a man like a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.

Even after Soroco pulled off a stunning come-from-behind 34-27 victory, no one was really sure what the big play had been.

The Rams simply were thrilled to take the win and improve to 2-0, no matter what play sealed the deal.

“Oh man, it feels great,” said sophomore quarterback Nic Paxton, the team’s breakout star who threw for three touchdowns, ran for one and still was bouncing in his cleats after the game was finished.

“It feels awesome. We’re on our way to more wins.”

But the decisive play, the one that turned defeat into victory, what was it?

Early in the game, a trio of fruitless Rams trips inside the red zone — two that came inside the 2-yard line — looked pretty important, especially after South Park’s Connor Sims ran untouched for 10 yards in the third quarter to score his team’s 27th unanswered point and bury Soroco in a 27-7 hole.

Sims teamed with running backs Randy Roblyer and Kyle Baker to blow past what had seemed to be a stout Soroco defense. That last score looked like the coup de grace.

The Rams weren’t done, however, and the clock did little to betray how much life remained in the game.

Paxton came around, finishing a 45-yard scoring drive with a 19-yard touchdown scramble. He scored again with what surely could have been the play of the game: a miraculous 43-yard third-and-long touchdown pass to Richard Gonzales.

Gonzales ran covered down the sideline, looking to his inside shoulder for the pass. He couldn’t find anything, however, and shifted his attention to his outside shoulder only for a split second. He threw out his arms, the ball immediately plopped in and he ran to make the score 27-20.

“I was freaking out,” Paxton said about the play. “Everything just went crazy.”

It looked crazy from the other sideline, too.

“Not to take anything away from them, but that looked pretty lucky,” South Park coach Kevin Lane-Head said with a smirk. “It was a really fun game to be a part of. There were great teams on both sides.”

The game’s final quarter also was full of highlight-reel plays. A South Park snap out of the back of the end zone on a punt made it 27-22, and Soroco took the lead six plays later after converting a fourth down with a 29-yard pass.

Paxton found Anderson from 6 yards for a touchdown and a 28-27 advantage.

Was that more important than his spur-of-the-moment decision to fake a punt on fourth-and-14 and throw a pass to Jacob Hange that went 39 yards, through two tackles and in for another touchdown?

Paxton thought so.

“If the throw’s open, you throw it. If not, you punt. It was wide open,” Paxton said. “As soon as I threw it, I knew it was going to be a touchdown. I didn’t know we’d win until we did that.”

Still, South Park had two minutes to drive and tie the game. Things only were truly 100 percent, pack-up-the-bags finished when Tristan Palyo, Michael Rossi and David Strait — joined on the day by Ben Strait and Joey Anderson with stellar defensive performances — squashed a fourth-down option play for a 2-yard loss with one minute remaining.

The Rams ran out the clock, and no one seemed concerned about which one play mattered most as they streamed onto the field.

“I have no idea. That’s impossible to say,” Bruner said, considering the question as his victorious players melted away to the locker room.

“The great thing is these guys didn’t give up. Three years ago, we don’t win that game. But now they know they can do it, and that made all the difference.”

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