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Defense leads boys to third straight win

PHS senior midfielder Heston Swenson cuts away from a pair of Worland defenders in the second half of Powell’s 2-0 win against the Warriors Thursday afternoon. PHS senior midfielder Heston Swenson cuts away from a pair of Worland defenders in the second half of Powell’s 2-0 win against the Warriors Thursday afternoon. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

PHS beats Worland 3-2 in Northwest quad match  

The Powell boys’ soccer team scored two quick goals before turning things over to its defense as the Panthers earned a 2-0 Northwest Quadrant win in Worland on Thursday.

Sophomore keeper Sean Wagner and the combined efforts of the PHS back line kept the Worland offense at bay, and earned Powell its second shutout of the season.

“Our defense did just a phenomenal job,” said PHS head coach Travis Rapp. “(Sean) wasn’t tested as many times as he was against Star Valley, but (he faced) the same quality of shots and (made) same quality of save we’ve grown accustom from him.”

The back line of senior Noah Katz, Alex Bjornestad, Jeron Smith and Mark Bullinger swept away the best efforts of the Warriors.

Tyler Ouelette scored on a penalty kick in the sixth minute and Emilio Raya Jr. booted a booming goal from about 25 yards out in the 16th to give the Panthers all they would need as the teams played a scoreless second half in Powell’s first road game of the season.

“Emilio has a great strike and he hits those shots every day in practice, has for two years,” Rapp said. “There’s no surprise there, that’s what I expect out of him.”

The coach said Raya Jr.’s goal could lead to more from the midfielder, who was unlucky during last year’s one-goal campaign.

“You have a little bit of success and you get a little more confident and you’re a little more willing to try things,” Rapp said.

Raya Jr. was able to find success in the center of the field, but for the most part the Worland defense kept Powell playing along the wings.

“We didn’t have as many shots as we’ve had in the past,” Rapp said. “We were given the wings a lot.”

Powell had to try to generate offense from the outside-in.

“We just weren’t getting heads and feet on the ends of those crosses,” Rapp said.

The Panthers recorded only four shots on goal and “we scored two goals so that’s pretty good,” Rapp said.

The win was Powell’s third straight to start the 2014 season and first in the Northwest. The Panthers played Cody at home Monday night after press time. (Visit www.facebook.com/powelltribune for the score and read the full game story in Thursday’s print edition.) Cody entered Monday’s contest 1-2, all of which were non-conference. Worland fell to 1-3 (0-1 in conference) with the loss.

Tyler Ouelette nearly had a third straight multi-goal game when, late in the first half, he danced with the ball past a Worland defender along the end line and fired a hard shot at the Worland net. The Warriors keeper, with the advantage of playing the shot’s extreme angle, was able to bat it down and prevent a rebound opportunity. Ouelette now has seven goals, which leads the state.

The Warriors came out in the second half determined to not let Powell run away with the game, and their aggressiveness resulted in more pressure on the Panther net, along with three second-half yellow cards.

Rapp said Wyoming soccer is always physical, though he said Powell didn’t expect it “to be quite as chippy as it was” near the game’s conclusion.

“Some of the yellow cards were (called for) persistent stuff, not necessarily really big fouls,” Rapp said.

Wagner made perhaps his most impressive save in the game’s 42nd minute. Worland wasted no time firing a low rocket of a try, a shot that seemed destined to halve Powell’s lead, but Wagner launched himself to his left and, while parallel to the ground with his arms out-stretched over his head, formed a two-handed wall that stopped the ball dead to rights.

Wagner was called on again just minutes later when a long Worland cross was sent with the intention of creating a header opportunity for a Warrior waiting in the box. Wagner rose to meet the ball at its highest point and successfully plucked it out of the air before it could meet the WHS forward challenging at the net.

Wagner also benefited from the help of an ally not listed on the Panther roster — the post.

Powell clung on to its two-goal lead as the game entered stoppage time. Worland continued to pressure the Panther zone and earned a free kick — the Warriors’ last best chance to get on the board. The opportunity generated a shot from the right wing that bounced loudly off the left post.

The Panthers survived another free kick, this time from just beyond the box and left of center, cleared the ball and as the referees blew the game’s final whistle Wagner pumped his fist, jumped and spun 180 degrees in the air and let out a “Yes!” that combined the exuberance of a win and the relief of no longer being the man between the pipes.

Powell had a few of its own scoring chances in the second half but wasn’t able to find the back of the net.

A Worland corner kick that the Panthers’ stout defense turned away turned into a fast break for junior Ty Herd, who Rapp says might be the fastest soccer player in the state.

Herd chased down the long clear and crossed midfield with a Warrior flanked tightly on each side of him, but by the time he entered the Worland penalty area he had long escaped with the ball and was alone on the WHS goal. He waited until he was two strides into the box before sending a golden chance over the crossbar and out of the field.

It might take a few more games before Herd, who was on the PHS track and field team last year, regains his finesse touches, though he has already impressed his coach just three games into the season.

“In my opinion he’s gone above and beyond where I expected him to be,” Rapp said.

The coach said all of the Panthers, not just Herd, have yet to reach their 2014 potential.

“A couple weeks before state I fully expect all of my players to be playing better than they did against Pinedale,” Rapp said.

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