Soroco defenders swarmed to the ball last week against North Park and limited the Wildcats’ running game. The Rams will have to be that effective again Saturday against Huxton if they’re to advance into the Colorado 8-man playoffs. Soroco kicks off the home cross-divisional game at 1 p.m.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Soroco defenders swarmed to the ball last week against North Park and limited the Wildcats’ running game. The Rams will have to be that effective again Saturday against Huxton if they’re to advance into the Colorado 8-man playoffs. Soroco kicks off the home cross-divisional game at 1 p.m.

Soroco football ready for Haxtun's running game in playoff game

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— Haxtun High School sits 320 miles from Oak Creek. It’s closer to Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and South Dakota than it is to Soroco, but Soroco High School football coach David Bruner said all that distance doesn’t provide much of an obscuring effect.

Haxtun runs the ball. It does so with regularity, and it does so with power. If the Rams are to emerge from their first home cross-district playoff game with a victory, they already know that’s the most important thing they’ll have to stop.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Soroco High School.

“We have to stop that run and make them throw the ball,” Bruner said. “They’re a pretty basic team. They line up in the I (formation), and they run it.”

It may be basic to watch, but stopping it is a complex problem the Rams have struggled to solve against similar opponents.

Bruner said the team on this year’s schedule most similar to the Bulldogs was South Park, which ran past Soroco for a 40-28 victory in September.

The Rams will be better prepared for Saturday’s game than they were for that early season slug fest, in which they were without four starters, but they know the kind of challenge they’re in for.

Haxtun, the No. 10 team in the Denver Post’s 8-man football rankings, pulled off big, close wins in the last two weeks to set Saturday’s stage, all behind a powerful stable of running backs led by junior Ryan Nelson.

Soroco will be without a player who could have been crucial in the game — senior offensive and defensive lineman Brandon Leu, who is out with a knee injury.

“They line up in the I with split backs and run powers and sweeps,” Bruner said. “We’ve been working against some different running formations, and we’ve gotten a lot better with our defensive technique through the year.”

Haxtun has proven just as smashmouth on the other side of the ball, but there the Rams hope to stay a step ahead, spreading the ball wide and forcing the Bulldogs into situations they’re uncomfortable with after playing all season in the run-heavy Eastern Plains region.

“We have to open the game up by passing,” Bruner said. “The kids are really excited, and we’ve had some good practice this week. It should be a great atmosphere. People in town are talking, and everything’s excited.

“The kids are nervous, but they’re ready to play this game.”

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