The South Park High School football team cracked open the season by giving the highly-graded Soroco Rams a run for their money in a class 1A-8 non-conference home game Aug. 31.
Having won the coin toss, the Burros kicked off the game with a deep boot into Soroco territory and held their opponent to one first-down before taking over at the Rams 25-yard line.
The first possession started rough with back-to-back fumbles, but was silver-lined with Burro recoveries. By the third down, South Park finally gained composure as senior John “John-John” O’Donnell, rushed for a Burro first down on a right-side handoff from senior quarterback Michael Kelley. A touch of spirit jolted throughout the team as South Park continued to attack and marched to a quick first-and-goal before concluding the raid with a rushing touchdown from Kelley. Polishing off, O’Donnel rushed for the two-point conversion, and the Burros took an early 8-0 lead.
A defensive battle began to rage as Burro power held the Rams to take over on downs, but the Rams answered by causing the Burros to punt prior to closing the first quarter.
With the Rams in first possession to start the second quarter, the Burros fought to hold their opponent back, and an immediate takeover found South Park at mid-field.
Skilled and disciplined, the Rams responded with their own maneuvers to force Kelley on a 50-yard punt, where junior Elias Esparza, stopped the Rams just short of the 25-yard line. Utilizing physical and mental dexterity, the Rams pushed on the Burros for a long-yarded first touchdown. Keeping their wits about them, the Burros remained tough under pressure to halt the conversion and maintain the lead at 8-6.
Countering, the Burros went back to work and broke Soroco defense wide open with a 25-yard play, which was unfortunately called back on holding with the loss of an additional 10 yards. Adverse conditions followed with a quarterback sack and the loss of another five yards prior to returning to the opposite side of the ball.
Thrashing to regain control, Kelley stepped out to stop the Rams at the 30-yard line, but the opponent was geared for action and drove for another lengthy-yarded touchdown. Urging on the Rams, freshman Monte Downare stopped the point(s) after touchdown (PAT), but the Rams took the lead at 12-8.
While junior Hector Almeida was able to run Burro possession beyond the 30-yard line, the struggle to reorganize brought about several team mistakes and penalties which caused the Burros to lose the ball after only one first down.
Boosted in their territory, the Rams fired time and again on the Burros, but South Park triggered their defense to keep their opponent out of the end zone before the end of the second quarter.
A short Soroco kickoff placed South Park in good field position and an immediate first down from sophomore Drake Hermansen, put the Burros in strong standing to start the second half. But once again, penalties caused the Burros to lose 15 yards consecutive times.
The two challengers continued to battle in a toe-to-toe contest, seizing ownership on downs. As the clock wound down to six minutes left in the quarter, the Rams struck again and ran in a 65-yard touchdown, and this time, was able to obtain the PAT to lead the game 20-8.
Nonetheless, the Burro team was still unwilling to go down without a fight and rekindled, as a quick kick from Soroco was shut down by senior Preston Haley, which enabled the Burros to take possession at the 40-yard line. A 15-yard pass from Kelley to Almeida saw a Burro first-down. From there, South Park picked up their passing game and rallied into Ram terrain to find them on the 20-yard line. A 10-yard pass from Kelley to Hermansen located the Burros at first-and-goal, but the Rams held their hosting opponent and took over on downs.
With one quarter left in the game, the already short-handed Burro team began to suffer from injuries and was forced to play ironman with the soldiers that were able. However, the heart of the team continued to beat as, once again, South Park advanced deep into Ram country. Despite the effort, a bad snap was picked off by the Rams and was concluded with a devastating 70-yard touchdown. Yet the Burros remained focused, and the PAT was unsuccessful.
“The conversion is stopped by a herd of burros,” said the Burros’ Bray, Peter Lubin ,from the press box.
While the Rams led on the scoreboard 26-8, a 25-yard pass from Kelley to Almeida put the Burros back on the map as they continued to push the ball down the field. In spite of the undying attempts, incomplete passes allowed the Rams to take over at the 40-yard line, and a 30-yard rush found the Rams in the end zone again with a successful conversion.
With only two minutes left on the clock, the Burros united for a final attempt to gain ground, and a quarterback sneak pushed Kelley for a 20-yard gain, but the drive was cut short on time and the game ended with the Soroco Rams on top by a score of 34-8.
Although the loss has registered a 0-1 record on the season, the Burros will move ahead and look to play the Del Norte Tigers in an away non-conference game Sept. 6.
Conference play will begin the following weekend as the Burros will take on Denver Christian Sept. 14, followed by an away game against Front Range Christian Sept. 20.