After snapping 50-year streak, Soroco aims for semifinals | SteamboatToday.com

After snapping 50-year streak, Soroco aims for semifinals

The Soroco defense waits over the ball Saturday while playing in Merino. The Rams hit the road again this weekend to play at Mancos in the playoff quarterfinals.

Signs lined the road in downtown Aspen as the Soroco High School football team rolled into town Nov. 11, 1967.

"Welcome Soroco from the Aspen Skiers," the sign read, on one side, anyway.

The other side, meant to be seen when the Rams were leaving town after a loss, was a bit more boastful: "Sorry about that."

A glance ahead at the 50 years of Rams football that awaited might have justified that confidence. That day, however, it was Soroco doing the laughing.

Playing in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A football playoffs, Soroco, the undefeated champions of the Gore League, took the lead with a first-quarter fumble recovery in the end zone. It added another touchdown when quarterback Tom Gregory connected with Ernie Montoya for a 75-yard pass in the third quarter.

That proved enough for a 14-6 victory and as the Rams rolled out of town, on to the semifinals, they made sure to grab a sign to memorialize the moment.

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"Sorry about that."

That game five decades ago has stood as the high tide of Soroco football as nothing but futility followed, few wins and not a single playoffs victory.

The program made the playoffs cut a few times in that span but never won, not even when it dropped from 11-man football to 8-man in 2008.

Last week, the Rams for the first time since 1967, since Lyndon Johnson sat in the White House and the Beatles released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band, won a game in the state playoffs, defeating No. 3 Merino 42-32.

Soroco went on to lose in the 1967 semifinals against eventual state champion Limon, 37-13.

This year's squad has entirely different ideas, however, and it will try to one-up the boys of '67 with a 1 p.m. Saturday game on the road at Mancos.

The winner will advance to play either West Grand or Sargent in the state semifinals.

"I like where we are now," Soroco coach Dick Dudas said. "This team, it has heart, No. 1, and No. 2, our schedule has helped us out a lot. We've played tough teams, and yeah, we took it on the chin some, but that benefited us as the season rolled along."

Indeed, the Rams were sharper in Saturday's school history-making win against Merino than they were all season.

The win was an upset, Soroco entering as the No. 14 seed in the 16-team Colorado 8-man football tournament, knocking off No. 3. The game didn't play out like an upset, however, as the Rams built a 20-0 lead and, thanks to a strong performance by tailback Jace Logan and the offensive line in front of him, largely controlled the pace from start to finish.

The formula isn't likely to change much this weekend. It hasn't changed much all season, relying heavily on Logan — he leads the state with 2,598 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns — with enough of the team's other stable of backs worked in as an attempt to keep the defense guessing at least a little.

The Rams are hoping the formula can work again.

Mancos, 8-2 this season, pulled an upset in the first round of the tournament, as well. Seeded No. 11, it demolished No. 6 Rocky Mountain Lutheran, 64-28.

The Bluejays spent the latter part of the season in the lower end of the CHSAANow.com weekly rankings, topping out at No. 8 in late October. They had an early season loss against a team from New Mexico, 48-0, then lost again late in the season to Sargent, the No. 7 seed in the 8-man playoffs.

They picked up some quality wins in the meantime, including an overtime victory against down-the-road rival Norwood, 22-14. Mancos limited Norwood's big ball carriers in that game, holding them each to less than 100 yards.

Soroco, meanwhile, lost to Norwood 51-26 early in the season, gave up 100-yard games to two backs and gave up another 237 yards passing.

What's that mean? The Rams aren't sure.

They're happier with their team now than they were in September when they ran into Norwood, but they know they need a big game to advance again.

Dudas is being superstitious. The Rams will have the same bus driver they had a week ago. They'll stick to a similar schedule, arriving midday Friday, working out on a nearby field, then tucking in after a good dinner and maybe a movie — most of the Rams, Dudas said with some surprise, have never seen “Rudy.”

After that, the players will file off to bed, keeping the exact same room assignments they had last week, too.

They're hoping those aren't the only thing that will remain the same, and that come Saturday, they can accomplish what no Rams team ever has: winning two playoff games in the same season.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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