Oak Creek It took 10 years, and on Friday, the Soroco High School football team savored every possible second.
2013 Rams football schedule
2013 Tigers football schedule
Its fans roared with every fourth-quarter first down. Its players threw their arms up and cheered with every tackle, and its coach, David Bruner, leaped into the air and pumped his fist with every everything.
Soroco ended a decade of football misery Friday night, winning perhaps its biggest game in that span by knocking off cross-county rival Hayden, 26-6.
“That feels pretty great,” Soroco junior Carl Rossi said. “We’ve been needing to do that for a while.”
It’s been a rough decade for the Rams, and few of those games against the Tigers even have been close, with Hayden winning the five games in that span by an average of nearly five touchdowns.
That’s what made Friday so sweet. Soroco didn’t just win, it dominated.
It wasn’t easy. Hayden hung tough throughout and seemed a few good breaks from being right back in it up until the very end. But the Rams built a first-half lead by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They played with power, and they never let go.
Soroco got up 20-0 in the first half, controlling the tempo thanks to the offensive line, a stable of running backs and a grinding approach. It mixed in just enough big passing plays to move the chains.
Storm Veilleux broke free for a 39-yard touchdown to get things started. Eric Logan scooted four yards around the edge of the Tigers’ line for the second score, and quarterback Matt Regan flew 23 yards up the middle of the field for the third first-half score.
“It’s been a long time coming, and we worked really hard to do it,” senior running back Ian Palyo said. “We were all determined. We’ve been talking about this game since two-a-days started.”
As Soroco celebrated early, Hayden struggled mightily. The Rams keyed on running back Dan Engle and receiver Greg Frentress and stuffed them both. The Tigers accounted for just 18 yards offense and zero first downs in the first half to Soroco’s 230 and 11.
The Tigers were better in the second half. They found life in several Ram turnovers, picked up their first, first down with 3 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter and scored four plays later on a Isaac Bridges 13-yard pass to Sam Skof.
But it wasn’t enough.
Soroco answered with a game-finishing, 5-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run from Logan. Forced into obvious passing situations, Bridges completed six of 14 attempts, and the Tigers never threatened again.
“Credit to Soroco,” Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner said. “They came to play. They made the plays they needed to. There were times it looked like we might spring something, but they had a guy there. They get all the credit.”
Palyo finished with 121 yards on 121 carries. Regan was 4-6 passing for 47 yards with an interception. For Hayden, Bridges led the way with 40 yards on nine carries. Engle was limited to 9 yards on five carries. Bridges also threw for 82 yards, completing eight of 25 passes with a touchdown.
Soroco outgained Hayden 281 yards to 118.
Now the Rams, a perfect 4-0, hope they can take the emotion from one of the biggest wins in years and roll it into a run through the league.
“It’s a big win for this community and for our football team,” Bruner said. “We knew for us to turn a corner, we had to beat a team like this. To physically be able to tough it out and be more physical than the other team, that was important. We did that. We’ve never done that.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9