Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs It feels almost insulting every time I ask, and yet I feel like I’ve asked it about a dozen times.
Soroco High School quarterback Nic Paxton was beaming Friday night after he led his Rams past Plateau Valley in a 63-0 game that wasn’t as close as the score makes it sound.
It was the third such romp for 3-0 Soroco.
It was all I could think of, and I had to ask: What, if anything, does a win like that mean?
It’s entirely fair, and it’s the real question that has haunted nearly all high school sports teams in this region in recent seasons.
The answer, far more often than not, has been “diddley squat.”
With a few rare expectations, local success has withered in the face of Front Range power. And there’s been no better or more reliable example — as Soroco knows — than 8-man football.
The Rams were eligible for postseason play for the first time a season ago, but their run ended before it started. A cross-divisional game is the first step in the 8-man postseason, taking place a week before the playoffs. There, the Rams were pounded by Haxtun, 55-14. Haxtun lost a week later in the first round of the playoffs, 35-0.
In the brief time Northwest Colorado teams have been playing at the 8-man level, they’ve not come close to measuring up with their opponents from the other side of the Continental Divide.
West Grand, which was good enough to blast Soroco last season 52-12, also lost in the cross-divisional round, 28-8 to Caliche. The Mustangs were also good in 2010, when they lost in the same round to Sedgwick County, 42-14.
West Grand had pummeled plenty of teams those seasons, just as Soroco annihilated teams last year. None of it meant anything in terms of how they stacked up against the powerhouses from the plains.
So, evidence would seem to suggest that no, a 63-0 win against Plateau Valley doesn't mean anything.
I don’t think so, though. In fact, this could be the year when the stranglehold is broken.
The thought first crossed my mind as I watched Hayden go toe to toe with defending champ and No. 1-ranked Dayspring Christian two weeks ago.
Hayden has a big senior class, and while it isn’t as powerful a team as it would have been had senior Ryan Domson not gotten hurt this summer, it’s got weapons and it has brute strength.
The Tigers can beat some of those teams, and if they played Dayspring again, they might win.
Meanwhile, the ease with which it drilled Plateau Valley on Friday has to mean something.
The Rams have had some good teams since they dropped to 8-man, squads powered by some special classes with some truly great athletes.
I’ve never seen as lopsided a game as I saw Friday against Plateau Valley. I’ve never seen a team score so at will. Soroco’s offense is ex-plo-sive. There are big-time weapons on the wings and in the backfield, and after years of up-and-down play, Paxton looks as dialed in at quarterback as anyone can.
Soroco can beat some of those teams.
Soroco and Hayden play at 7 p.m. Friday night in Hayden. Check back on the history of local 8-man teams and it may be fair to assume their squabble for league position will simply establish which team slaughters them in the cross-divisional round.
That’s not the case this year. These are two powerhouse teams, and their collision Friday night will be something to see.