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Boys enter state soccer at full strength

PHS junior Ty Herd warms up during a ball control drill at the Panthers’ soccer practice Tuesday afternoon. Herd and the rest of the Panther boys open the Class 3A State Tournament in Jackson against Pinedale at 9 a.m. today (Thursday). PHS junior Ty Herd warms up during a ball control drill at the Panthers’ soccer practice Tuesday afternoon. Herd and the rest of the Panther boys open the Class 3A State Tournament in Jackson against Pinedale at 9 a.m. today (Thursday). Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

The Powell High School boys’ soccer team is a healthy first-round favorite as the Class 3A State Tournament begins today (Thursday) in Jackson.

The Panthers open at 9 a.m. with a match against Pinedale for the third time this season.

Powell is 2-0 against the Wranglers after beating them 7-0 in the season opener March 22 and again 5-2 on the road May 3.

PHS head coach Travis Rapp said this is the best draw the Panthers have earned in the past four years, and it’s the healthiest his team has been at this point in the season.

“We are on more of an upswing than we were last year,” Rapp said. “This is the first time in four years we haven’t had a major injury going into state.”

Senior center-mid Noah Katz (foot) and sophomore midfielder Trey Ouellette (ankle) have been resting their injuries, and Rapp said they will be ready to go come tournament time.

“They’ll go for whatever we need them to go for,” Rapp said.

No. 5 Powell (6-6, 3-1 Northwest) had the luxury of not playing over the weekend thanks to a quadrant title and automatic bid to state.

The Panthers used the time to scout ahead and prepare for a potential semifinal matchup.

Rapp said Powell installed new defensive formations last week in case the Panthers meet a high-powered offense like Lander in the semis or Jackson in the finals.

“Then we use this week to prepare for our first-round game,” Rapp said. “We did that (practice a new defensive scheme) beforehand ... so it wouldn’t be a distraction.”

Powell will try to jump to a quick lead against a three-win Pinedale team that beat Douglas twice (including May 17’s play-in game) and Green River’s junior varsity squad in a 3-2 shootout.

A high-scoring first half for the Panthers would let Rapp play his reserves in what he hopes is a long three-day title run.

“If we happen to open it up against Pinedale and get a chance to rest some guys ... three games in a row, regardless of who you’re playing, that’s a long weekend,” Rapp said.

Pinedale scored just 17 goals and allowed 52 in 15 games this season. Both are the worst marks of any 3A team to make it to state.

If the Panthers win, they will meet the winner of No. 2 Lander vs. No. 3 Star Valley.

Powell lost 6-1 in Lander and split its two games with Star Valley. The Panthers won 4-3 in overtime at home, while they lost 5-0 at Afton in a game in which Powell’s starters sat much of the second half.

Lander beat Star Valley 2-1 on April 19 in Afton.

The Tigers have scored 62 goals over 16 games this season and have Class 3A’s leading scorer in Kyle Leemon, who has netted 30 himself.

“You have to go into a game like that keying on defense,” Rapp said. “There’s not a lot of soccer games won 7-6.”

The Leemon-led Tigers scored an average of 3.88 goals per game during the regular season, but Rapp thinks the Panthers’ back line can slow them down.

“I think we’ve figured something out where we’ll try to neutralize Kyle,” Rapp said. “A lot of their offense goes through Kyle.

“You’ll see us drop another defender, (with) Shattuck Swenson possibly seeing a start there.”

If Pinedale upsets the Panthers in the first round, Powell would move to the consolation bracket to play the loser of Lander vs. Star Valley.

Regardless of who or when the Panthers play after Pinedale, Rapp said they will focus on their brand of soccer.

The coach said his team’s philosophy will remain focused on possession.

“When you’re possessing the ball, you have the opportunity to score,” Rapp said. “Possessing the ball is also really important defensively, because you’re taking opportunities away from the opponent.”

Rapp noted that Powell’s losses tended to come in games in which the team struggled to control the ball, which put more pressure on the defense.

“It doesn’t matter how good your keeper is, if he’s getting shot at 25 times a game, bad things are going to happen,” Rapp said.

But for the first time since the PHS boys made state a regular occurrence, they are in a position — both schedule- and health-wise — to make some good things happen.

Forecasts call for clear skies in Jackson all tournament-long with morning temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees and afternoon temperatures from the low-60s to low-70s.

 

PHS boys' soccer schedule
MARCH
  22   Pinedale   7-0 W
  29   Star Valley   4-3 OT
APRIL
  4   Worland
  2-0 W
  7   Cody   3-0 W
  22   Cody   2-1 L
  25   Buffalo   2-1 L
  26   Jackson   6-0 L
MAY
  2   Lander   6-1 L
  3   Pinedale   5-2 W
  8   Worland   1-0 W
  9   Star Valley   5-0 L
  10   Jackson   9-0 L
  22-24   STATE   TBA
  Overall Record: 6-6; Conference: 3-1

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