“The culture has changed where we expect ourselves to win,” Rapp said. “We expect ourselves to compete every single game.
“We’re coming in trying to win a state title so we might not feel as good about a fourth place as my team a few years ago that finished fifth.”
The Panthers, who came into the tourney ranked fifth in 3A, won their first-round match against Pinedale 2-0 to advance to the semifinals for the first time in the program’s history.
The No. 2-ranked Lander Tigers beat Powell 5-2 Friday and Powell moved to the third-place game against No. 4-Buffalo.
The Panthers fell to the Bison 4-0 on Saturday to end their season. Rapp said the pair of losses were followed by “a ton of disappointment.”
“We thought we could come out and do a little bit better,” Rapp said. “The ball bounces a couple of different ways we’re in the championship game against Jackson.”
Lander scored four of its five goals on set pieces, including one penalty kick, to eliminate the Panthers from title contention.
Class 3A’s leading scorer Kyle Leemon scored his first goal of the game early as Lander took a 2-0 lead by the game’s 12th minute.
Rapp made a couple substitutions in an attempt to reverse the game’s momentum.
“We started playing a little better and we played them tighter,” Rapp said.
But the Tigers would strike again, making it 3-0, before a “beautiful, left-footed goal” by sophomore Trey Ouellette made it 3-1 at the half.
PHS senior Emilio Raya Jr. opened the second-half scoring with a “real nice shot” to cut Lander’s lead to 3-2.
“We had momentum on our side,” Rapp said. “We really felt like we were going to win the game.”
Powell was one goal away from pushing the Tigers to the verge of elimination, but a foul on Leemon in the box gave the state’s best scorer an easy goal off a penalty kick and Lander reclaimed its two-goal lead.
“That PK really changed the momentum of the game,” Rapp said.
A late-game goal put the game out of reach for the Panthers.
Rapp said Powell played the Tigers much better than during a 6-1 loss in the regular season.
“We definitely had Lander scared and on the ropes,” Rapp said.
Powell played Buffalo to a scoreless first half and had the Bison frustrated.
“You could tell, Buffalo players were starting to bicker at each other,” Rapp said.
A defensive error early in the second half began Powell’s late-game slide.
“We left a man unmarked in the middle,” said Rapp of Buffalo’s first goal. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much time you spend on something, mistakes are made on occasion.”
Buffalo scored its second goal soon after the first and then added two more late in the game to turn what was a close game for more than a half into a blowout.
Powell beat Pinedale for the third time this season in a 2-0 opening-round shutout.
Trey Ouellette and Tyler Ouellette scored for the Panthers.
Rapp said Powell was never in danger of losing but didn’t convert all of its scoring chances.
“We controlled the game pretty well,” the coach said. “We had a ton of chances at goal.
“Pinedale didn’t have a shot in the second half.”
Postseason accolades for Panthers
Seniors Tyler Ouellette and Noah Katz were named to the Class 3A All-State team.
Senior Emilio Raya Jr., sophomore Trey Ouellette, Tyler Ouellette and Katz all made the All-Conference team.