“We had three good chances early on against Lander that really could have kickstarted us,” said Panther soccer coach Travis Rapp. “We had three straight corner kicks in the first five or 10 minutes that we got good shots on goal from and just couldn’t put any of them away.”
During that sequence, Powell caught crossbar on one shot, side post on another and watched as the Tigers’ keeper made a leaping grab to take away a shot heading for the upper corner of the net.
“It was a really good play by their keeper to stop that shot,” said Rapp. “I think we caught them a little flat-footed early on, but we weren’t able to capitalize on it.”
Lander eventually found the groove which enabled the Tigers to spend most of the season in the state rankings. Lander scored a pair of goals in the first half to take a 2-0 lead into intermission. The squad tacked on a third goal in the second half.
“It was disappointing, because we thought it was a game we could sneak from them,” said Rapp. “We just went a little flat late in the first half. We played them way better than when it was 7-0 at our place, but it just wasn’t in the cards.”
The loss dropped the Panthers into a Friday elimination contest against Worland.
“Those consolation games are hard to prepare for mentally,” said Rapp. “It’s the first game where you’re having to get ready to play, but you know you’re not in contention for a state title any longer. You never quite know where kids are going to be at mentally.”
Rapp noted his Panthers met the challenge with focus.
“They were eager to play Worland again,” said Rapp. “They wanted another crack at them.”
While the Panthers’ passing game was able to control the ball against the Warriors, the southern Big Horn Basin squad capitalized on a pair of dead ball opportunities. Worland scored its first goal on a free kick from just outside of the penalty area after the Panthers were whistled for a tripping call. The Warriors increased their lead to 2-0 following a penalty kick goal that was awarded after a hand ball in the box.
“Both of those were situations where we really couldn’t’ control things,” Rapp said. “The free kick was a judgment call and the kid made a nice kick on the restart. The hand ball was a situation where our guy had his arm against his body and the ball was kicked up into him and he got whistled for it striking his arm.”
Powell got on the board in the 55th minute as Ethan Landers got a ball into net. Shortly thereafter, the Panthers began to press players forward in the hope of scoring an equalizing goal.
“We had probably four or five good chances in the final minutes to tie the game and take it to overtime,” said Rapp. “With probably 30 seconds left, Ty Oullette crossed a ball in and we had two guys running free in the middle who weren’t quite able to connect with it. We just couldn’t hit paydirt.”
After the state tournament, the Panthers learned that both Oullette and Dewey Schwahn had been named all-conference and all-state team members. Hunter Werbelow was an all-conference honorable mention selection for Powell.
Schwahn’s name was also submitted by an opposing 3A West soccer coach for consideration for senior player of the year honors in Class 3A.