Vail Christian's Austin Ellsworth gets a pass off through the Soroco defense Friday night in Oak Creek. The Saints offense wasn't great, but its defense more than made up for that. Vail Christian won the game, 26-6.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Vail Christian's Austin Ellsworth gets a pass off through the Soroco defense Friday night in Oak Creek. The Saints offense wasn't great, but its defense more than made up for that. Vail Christian won the game, 26-6.

Vail Christian defense stuffs Soroco football

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— For the Soroco High School football ball team, last week’s running-clock loss to Hayden may have stung, but Friday night’s 26-6 homecoming defeat against Vail Christian? That’s a body blow.

Now more than halfway through the season, the Rams must try to get off the ropes.

Vail Christian took over Friday night’s game with a dominating defensive performance that left Soroco’s best kicking the dirt and howling in frustration. The Saints found enough offense to pull away in the second half, with a 39-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run by Mack Cooper icing the game.

“It was an off night, that’s for sure,” Soroco senior AJ Anderson said.

The final scamper was illustrative of how the Saints moved the ball, zipping around or through the Soroco defense, winning with speed rather than brute strength.

Cooper finished with three touchdowns, but it wasn’t speedy running backs, the occasional bad interference call or a few long passes that sank Soroco to 3-2 and 0-2 in the division.

It was that defense.

The Rams averaged nearly nine touchdowns in their first three games — all wins. They’ve scored just two in their consecutive losses.

Soroco quarterback Nic Paxton had a miserable night in the pocket, though to be fair, he spent very little time there. Far more often, he was sprinting away from an unchecked Vail pass rush and trying to shed tacklers within seconds of receiving the snap.

“Our line was getting blown up right up the middle,” Anderson said. “Nic didn’t have the time to get rid of the ball or anything.”

The Rams did get creative in trying to buy time. They ran four trick play passes with wide receiver Matt Regan, all in the fourth quarter. Paxton ran the option several times with Regan, and that gained some, but not enough, yards.

The only thing that really seemed to work was a steady dose of the run game. Junior fullback Ian Palyo ran in from six yards out to cap a 12-play touchdown drive late in the second quarter. Soroco ran the ball all but once on the possession and cut the Vail lead to 14-6.

But nothing squashes the run game like second and 20 after a sack, so there was only so much that could help the Rams. Paxton was sacked or tackled for a loss 14 times, coughed up two fumbles, one of which was lost, and threw one interception.

“We wanted to contain the quarterback. We knew he’s a great player,” Vail coach Tim Pierson said.

Good plan. It worked for Hayden a week ago, and on Friday, it helped Vail Christian step in as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the division. The Saints now are 5-0 overall and 2-0 on the division. They seem likely to stay undefeated going into an Oct. 19 home game against Hayden, a clash of what could be two highly ranked teams.

Soroco, meanwhile, is suddenly in danger of missing out on any postseason opportunity. The Rams return to action Oct. 5 at home against South Park, and that’s close to a must win if the team is to finish in the top four of the division and play in Week Nine’s cross-conference game.

“We’re going to get back to practice, and we’re going to stay a lot more focused,” Anderson said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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