Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
The conversation has stayed with me since it took place nearly a year ago.
“Come on,” a disgruntled Soroco fan said through the phone one morning soon after it was announced that Hayden would be joining the Rams in the 8-man football ranks.
“You know what’s going to happen when Hayden plays Soroco in football,” he said.
Hayden was going to dominate. That was his point. He shot down the notions I floated that it might be close and that games between Hayden, Soroco and the other 8-man converts of this corner of the state were a great thing.
His message was clear: Hayden’s drop to 8-man would ruin Soroco’s party.
Then, on Monday morning, following Hayden’s 49-7 victory against Soroco last week, my phone rang again. My dispirited South Routt reader was there with an "I told you so."
But his doom-and-gloom view is not representative of the Soroco Rams I’ve met.
The Soroco team that marched onto the field in Hayden on Friday was a spirited, confident and optimistic bunch proud of its program and it team — as well it should be.
They certainly didn’t stumble out mumbling, “Hayden’s here. What’s the point?”
Nope. I simply can’t get behind the premise that Hayden and Soroco don’t belong together in football and, no matter how Friday night’s game went, last week was as much proof as the school’s similar enrollment numbers.
The buildup to that game was exciting. I looked forward to kickoff as much as I have for any event I’ve covered. We had fun at the newspaper trying to guess who was going to win and planning our coverage.
Weeks like that are why I love my job. They’re what we all love about sports.
Yes, in the end, the game wasn’t close. Hayden looks like a team of destiny this season, as it should with that awesome senior class and a great coach.
But Soroco is hardly dog food, and while 49-7 certainly says something about this year’s teams, it says plenty else as well.
For one, it speaks to the rout-prone nature of small-class high school football.
Consider: the average margin of victory in last year’s 8-man playoffs was 25.5 points. Even good teams tend to lose big against the best of the best.
So, what’s with the bad attitude? The unidentified caller and I repeatedly ended up talking about Soroco’s unfortunate entry into 8-man football.
Indeed that was a bitter pill as the Rams lost playoff eligibility for its first two 8-man seasons. Nearly everything about that situation made the burn worse.
Those two Rams teams were deeply talented squads, like Hayden’s is this year. The ineligibility, as far as the Colorado High School Activities Association was concerned, boiled down to a few too many students and a few too many wins in preceding seasons, and it was an absolutely crummy deal for a couple of great classes of Soroco athletes.
That Hayden avoided having to endure the same frustrating entry into 8-man is not an issue of fairness, though.
Soroco did use those years as productively as possible, laying the groundwork for a rebuilt program that had the capability to win its first three games of this season by a combined score of 183-6.
No, these Hayden-Soroco games won’t be about bitterness. The Rams are not “right back to 2007,” as I was told by the caller.
These games are going to be fun. They’re going to be intense, and they’re going to be competitive.
I didn’t know who would win this year. Seeing Hayden step up was exciting.
I also don’t know who’s going to win next year, but I’m already looking forward to driving down to Oak Creek in the fall to find out.
For those who think they know and don't like the answer, well, I guess there's no reason for them to attend.