Everything on the line in 8-man football
October 16, 2013
Steamboat Springs — It's one thing for everyone to expect a tight district race. It's quite another for it to play out that way.
With one game remaining for most of the local 8-man football district teams, nearly everything remains up in the air.
For Hayden, a win only could add to the mayhem. For Soroco, though, a win could add some much desired peace for a team still smarting from its first loss of the season last week.
"We control our destiny," Soroco coach David Bruner said. "If we go in and we win, we don't have to worry about everyone else."
Seizing that opportunity won't be easy, not against West Grand, another front-running team that lost unexpectedly last weekend. The game is at 7 p.m. Friday in Oak Creek. The Mustangs got down 16-0 in the first half and couldn't come all the way back, falling 16-12 to Vail Christian.
The Rams, 5-1, wilted Friday night against Rangely, doomed by turnovers and, perhaps more important, play on the offensive and defensive lines.
"We got beat up," Bruner said after reviewing the tape. "They physically whipped us."
As well as Soroco has played on the lines all season, that came as a surprise. Soroco's success Friday could hinge on whether it can perform better in that area.
"That was the best line we've come up against so far this year, but we also had some guys who didn't play as well as they've been playing, and that hurt us," Bruner said. "Our line is usually pretty strong."
West Grand was widely considered the league favorite in the preseason but not necessarily because of its line play. The Mustangs returned many of their skill position players from last year's district-champion squad. That led to big offensive outputs in its other district games, 84 points in two games, but not against Vail Christian.
The key for the Rams will be minimizing those players by hanging on to the football by preventing turnovers and maintaining the long, grinding drives for which Soroco is geared.
It truly is a high-wire act for the Rams. Three of the five district teams have 2-1 records. Rangely sits at 2-2, finished with its schedule, and Hayden, at 0-3, was mathematically eliminated last weekend. If Soroco wins, improving to 3-1, it's guaranteed to be in first place as it would have the tiebreaker against the other potential 3-1 team, Vail Christian.
If the Rams lose, they could fall to fourth, losing a tiebreaker to Rangely.
"Winning the league, that's what we talked about in August," Bruner said. "They wanted to play for the league title, and now they get to."
A victory would allow Soroco to play a home game the following week in the intraconference round of the 8-man football postseason. The top two finishers in the league play at home, and the bottom two must travel.
Even eliminated, Hayden, 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the district, can weigh in. The Tigers played much of their league schedule without top senior running back Dan Engle. He is expected to return for his final game at 7 p.m. Friday against Vail Christian.
Several other Hayden starters who have been out with injury still are questionable for Friday's contest.
"We told the team there are two options," Tigers' coach Shawn Baumgartner said. "You can either cash in now or finish out strong. The seniors, this is their last game, the one they'll remember. How do they want to remember it? Underclassmen, what do they want to live with for a year?"
Either a Soroco loss or a Hayden victory can keep Vail from winning the title.
"We knew going in this would be a really tight league this year," Baumgartner said. "We were hoping to be in the mix a little more."