The record books will show that third-ranked Jackson escaped from Powell with a 2-1 overtime victory on Friday. Panther head coach Travis Rapp and many in attendance might beg to differ. And just like the English with Maradona’s immortal strike, they might have video evidence on their side.
The controversial sequence came in the fourth minute of the second overtime after Panther goalie John Kissner delivered a punt out of the Panthers’ goal box. A Jackson player misplayed the ball while attempting to head it out of the air, causing it to continue bouncing toward the Jackson goal. It bounded over the head of the Broncs’ keeper, who had strayed near the top of his 18-yard box and suddenly found himself trying to chase down the ball before it reached the goal mouth.
Interpretations of what happened next differ.
Jackson’s keeper made an athletic leap for the ball, getting his arm tangled in the goal net in the process. The leap also tore a hole in the goal netting in one location and caused the net to detach from the top crossbar of the goal in another.
To the head official on the field and the assistant referee working the sideline on the Broncs’ half of the field, the leap also deflected the ball over the crossbar. In the eyes of Rapp, the ball bounced under the cross bar and out the top of the goal through one of the holes created by the Jackson keeper, who was also injured on the play after hitting the ground hard.
“I thought the ball went through the net,” Rapp said. “The fourth official on the sideline thought it went in the net. Our kids thought it was in net.”
Of those individuals, it was the opinion of the fourth official that Rapp thought was the most important.
“In my experience, that’s the number two senior official,” Rapp said. “That’s the person keeping records. They take over if something happens to the center referee. They are supposed to be the second in command.”
As fate would have it, the contest was also being taped by TCT West. While Rapp hasn’t seen the video yet, he’s heard from others who say they have.
“I’ve had several people tell me the camera man at the field said his film shows it’s a goal,” Rapp said. “I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m going to try today to get a copy of it.”
Even if that video shows irrefutable evidence of a Powell goal though, Panther fans shouldn’t hold out hope for a change in the game’s outcome.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do to correct it,” Rapp said. “The call was made. The center referee waved off the official coming out to say it was a goal and went with the assistant referee instead.”
The controversial play clouded the end result of a well-played soccer match by both sides. Dylan Ulmer knocked home an assist from Keithen Schwahn in the ninth minute of play to give Powell a 1-0 lead. Jackson answered seven minutes later and neither team scored again until the Broncs scored on a rebound near the 18-yard stripe in the first minute of the second overtime.
“The boys played great,” Rapp said. “We played together and played hard to the last whistle. We’ll just have to accept that in our hearts we know we tied with Jackson and hopefully we can get it back when we go to their place in a few weeks.”
While Friday’s ending may have been clouded in controversy, the Panthers left no margin for differing interpretation on Saturday. Powell clobbered visiting Pinedale by an 11-2 final count.
“We took out a lot of our frustration on Pinedale,” Rapp said, noting nine different Panther players scored in the contest.
Powell broke from the gate early as Ulmer assisted Cody Wichman twice and Tyler Oulette once to give Powell a 3-0 lead just 13 minutes into the game. Oulette struck again in the 20th minute and Cooper Wise added his first goal of the season in the 27th minute. After a Pinedale score, the Panthers carried a 5-1 lead into the half.
Freshman Zac Jones scored on a header off the far post from a Wichman cross to start the second-half scoring. After three early assists, Ulmer got his chance to finish a goal in the 55th minute. Kissner, moved forward out of goal in the second half, scored 60 seconds later.
Dewey Schwahn, Jake Christensen and Charles Wittick each added goals before the game came to a close.
“We had 24 shots on goal,” Rapp said. “And what I liked the most about it was that it wasn’t just one or two guys scoring a whole bunch of goals. It was a lot of different kids scoring one or two goals. The team did a great job of playing selflessly and spreading the ball around.”
The Panthers’ coach was also happy with the fact that eight of his team’s 11 goals were assisted.
“We stuck with the team concept and played great possession soccer,” said Rapp. “It wasn’t someone trying to dribble through everyone.”
The weekend results leave the Panthers with a 2-7 overall record. The Panthers’ Tuesday game with Lander has been postponed until May 3, so the next soccer action for Powell won’t be until April 29, when the team travels to Cody.