But head coach Travis Rapp said a roster balanced by senior returnees, young talent and key position changes could have Powell going from worst to first in the Northwest.
“We feel like we can at least win our quadrant if not sweep our quadrant this year,” Rapp said. “As long as we can play together and play as we should we should do really well.”
Powell’s 22 goals scored in 2013 ranked ninth out of 12 Class 3A teams and its 77 goals allowed was the most, giving the Panthers a second-worst goal-differential of negative 55.
Rapp, who called this year’s Panthers “the most talented team Powell’s put out,” expects those numbers to move toward each other, and fast.
“We have a ton of firepower this year,” the coach said. “We could score a lot of goals, but it just kind of depends what the other team is going to give you.”
The Panthers will attack with a 3-5-2 formation, which Rapp hopes will allow them to dominate the ball and field position.
“It gives you control of the midfield, which in my opinion is the most important part of the field,” Rapp said.
Up in front will be senior Tyler Ouellette and junior Ty Herd.
Ouellete led the Panthers with seven goals last season and is Powell’s only returning All-State selection.
Herd, who played soccer his freshman year, chose track as a sophomore. He returns to the team as a junior and is expected to give Powell a major offensive boost.
“He could be the fastest kid playing soccer in Wyoming,” Rapp said.
The forward duo won’t be counted on to carry the offense alone.
Emilio Raya Jr. will play center-midfield this season after spending much of last year at forward and can provide a scoring punch despite tallying only one goal last season.
Rapp said Raya Jr. was unlucky last season and “hit a lot of crossbars, a lot of posts.”
Moving him back to center-mid could open up more room for him to work, either by scoring himself or creating for others.
“He plays a lot better with the field in front of him,” Rapp said. “He’s a phenomenal passer. He could very easily lead us in assists.”
Senior Blake Schwan returns from an injury-plagued 2013 season to provide some veteran leadership as an outside mid.
“He’s been a four-year varsity guy for me,” Rapp said.
Schwan was tied with Trey Ouelette for second on the team with five goals in 2013.
Another four-year varsity player, senior Noah Katz, will anchor an all-new back line.
“We lost our top four defenders (from last season),” Rapp said. “So we are a completely fresh defense.”
Jaron Smith, who Rapp described as a “super athlete” and “very, very fast,” will play to one side of Katz while Alex Bjornestad and his 6-foot frame will man the other.
Lost to graduation are All-State defenseman Dewey Schwahn, four-year starting center-mid Jake Christensen and speedy defender/midfielder Ethan Landers, who scored Powell’s only goal against Worland at state last year.
“We lost some good talent, don’t get me wrong, especially on that defensive line,” Rapp said. “But I feel like we’ve got the talent to step right in where in the past we didn’t have as much young talent coming in.”
Powell’s last line of defense will be either Sean Wagner or Mark Bullinger.
Wagner took over the goalkeeping duties last season but will have to fend off the “fearless” Bullinger, who has primarily played defenseman in high school.
“He’s the type of goalkeeper that will come up to you and rip the ball out of your feet,” Rapp said.
The coach said he’d name the starter for the season opener today (Thursday) but it would be subject to change.
“I kind of expect it to be a battle all year to see who keeps the position,” Rapp said.
The Panthers open this season at 1 p.m. Saturday against the visiting Pinedale Wranglers.
“We only have five home games so let’s win this one,” Rapp said.
|PHS boys' soccer schedule|
|29||Star Valley||1 p.m.|
|11||Green River Invite||TBA|
|12||Green River Invite||TBA|
|9||Star Valley||6 p.m.|
|*Shaded box denotes home games|