Soroco smashes way into state football semifinals as historic run continues | SteamboatToday.com

Soroco smashes way into state football semifinals as historic run continues

MANCOS — Cars streamed away from the football field outside Soroco High School a little less than a month ago even as the actual Rams football team was still limping off of it, dazed from a thorough shellacking by West Grand.

The Rams' dreams of winning at least a share of their league championship were officially dashed that night, Oct. 19, and even their plans of simply qualifying for the Colorado 8-man football playoffs were suddenly in jeopardy.

Three weeks later, the Rams seemed to refuse to leave the field in Mancos. They cheered, hugged, high-fived and chanted, "Soooooo-ROCO" ringing off the nearby aluminum bleachers as parents and friends crowded in close.

The 22 days that separated those moments isn't nearly enough to explain the difference between them, one a deflating loss and the other, oh baby the other, perhaps the biggest win Soroco's ever earned.

Soroco coach Dick Dudas throws up a fist following one of his team's fourth-quarter touchdowns on Saturday as the Rams knocked off Mancos 40-0 in the 8-man football playoffs.

The Rams went on the road and stomped Mancos in the quarterfinals of the 8-man state tournament, winning 40-0 and advancing to the state semifinals. They rode junior running back Jace Logan for 430 yards on 29 carries. He had all six of the game's touchdowns.

"We didn't just play a game today," coach Dick Dudas said, his players gathered tightly around him in the end zone after the game. "We made history."

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Last week, Soroco won a playoff game for the first time in 50 years. Saturday, it won a second playoff game in the same season for the first time in the school's 57 years.

Now the Rams will come home as they try to make the football state championship game for the first time ever, and they'll get a golden chance to avenge last month's nasty loss to West Grand.

Soroco, the state's No. 14 seed, will play at home against No. 2 West Grand, likely Saturday, after the Mustangs won their own quarterfinal showdown, 30-24, against Sargent.

Sedgwick County, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, beat Fowler 44-6 to advance while No. 5 Holly beat No. 13 Caliche, 47-26, to set up that side of the bracket.

"Then there were four," Dudas said to his players, a statement very few Rams have ever been able to celebrate.

Defense stands tall

They got to cheer those words thanks in large part to a stunning turnaround in their team defense.

Just two weeks ago, before the playoffs began, Dudas pointed to his team's pass defense as a potential Achille's heel. Entering the playoffs, the squad ranked in the lower half of all the 8-man teams in the state when it came to points allowed. Five opponents have scored 30 or more points on Soroco this season.

Soroco's Sam Shaffer steps in to knock down a second-half pass on Saturday against Mancos.

Saturday, however, against a Mancos squad that averaged 33 points per game this season, the Rams were a stone wall, earning their only shutout of the season.

"It's commitment to discipline and family," Soroco defensive coordinator John Azman said. "It's playing position defense and then trusting the other guy. That's all that matters on defense."

The Rams were worthy against both the run and the pass.

Mancos gained 236 yards total offense but only 34 of that through the air despite 20 attempts from quarterback Kaleb Hargraves.

The Rams picked off one pass in the first half, a grab by senior Kendall Hood, then nearly had two more interceptions in the second, had three sacks from senior Schuyler Carlson in the second half, and, to snuff out Mancos's final remotely realistic chance to get back in the game, a big pass knockdown by senior Sam Shaffer.

"We've turned it up," Hood said. "We've practiced hard on coverage, one on one, in practice, and it's really showing."

Running wild

On the other side of the ball, Logan put on a performance that was jaw-dropping even by his insane standards.

Soroco's Jace Logan knocks out a defender with a stiff arm Saturday as the Rams ran over Mancos, 40-0. Logan had 430 yards and six touchdowns in the game.

The Bluejays didn't necessarily do a poor job on Logan down to down. He averaged 15 yards per attempt for the game but remove the six scoring plays, and he averaged just 4.3 yards per carry, about a yard less than Mancos's own running backs.

Those scoring plays, though, they may live in Bluejay nightmares for years. Logan's shortest was 22 yards, his longest 99. He also had touchdown runs of 33, 51, 60 and 66 yards.

Some were bruising power runs up the middle, through tacklers; others were footwork marvels, between tacklers, and still more were straight-up sprints down the sideline, leaving tacklers in the dust.

He was held to one yard combined on his first two carries of the game. He took each of Soroco's next two offensive snaps to the end zone, however, and had 166 yards total after his first four carries.

He averaged 55 yards on each of those touchdown carries, and by the fourth quarter, Soroco was simply handing him the ball for the security as it tried to burn clock.

He, of course, turned a few of those attempts into touchdowns, as well.

Soroco's Schuyler Carlson, left, and Kendall Hood celebrate a defensive stop Saturday against Mancos.

"It was a great team victory, and we're not done yet," Logan said. "We're going to see what we can do next week."

It all sets Soroco up against what would seem to be an impossible obstacle.

The last time it played West Grand, just three weeks ago, it lost in devastating fashion, 54-0. The Rams' once-high hopes seemed completely sunk, their defense unreliable and their offense uninspired.

So much can change in 22 days, however. Afraid it was down and out Oct. 19, now Soroco heads into a home semifinal playoff game as one of the final four teams in the state.

"It's pretty special. As a school, we've never had this happen," Logan said. "We have the community behind us and now we believe."

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

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