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Panthers win soccer consolation title

Wild comeback gets team to Saturday contest

All season, Powell head boys’ soccer coach Travis Rapp was adamant in his belief that the Panthers were a top-five program in Class 3A. That faith was rewarded Saturday as Powell wrapped up the season with a 6-2 victory over Torrington in the consolation final game in Sheridan.

“I kept saying we were a top five team,” Rapp said. “The boys just had to wait for state to prove it.”

When given the chance, the Panthers left little doubt about their worthiness. Tyler Ouellette scored just four minutes into Saturday’s soggy consolation game and the Panthers never relinquished the lead.

“This was our game from the beginning,” Rapp said. “We knew they were scared from the beginning. Their defense was just simply kicking the ball out of bounds without any attempt to play it out of the backfield.”

Powell added another goal in the 23rd minute on a Cooper Wise penalty kick, then delivered a morale crushing flurry just before halftime. Ethan Landers got the sequence started with an unassisted goal after Torrington’s goalie lost a handle on the ball while making a play in the box, enabling it to trickle to Landers’ feet as he crashed the box for a simple tap in.

Moments later, Zac Jones delivered a shot from the right wing off a feed from Cody Wichman.

The onslaught actually continued into the second half. Wichman received credit for a goal after playing a corner kick into the goal box that Torrington’s keeper again mishandled and dropped into the goal for a 5-0 Powell lead. From there, Rapp began to empty the bench, giving each of the seniors on the team a chance to come out to a standing ovation from Panther fans who braved the elements.

Powell’s final goal came shortly after the midway point of the second half. Senior Billy Cummings beat the Torrington keeper on a penalty kick to record the first and only goal of his varsity soccer career for the Panthers.

“Our boys were confident and ready to take that trophy home,” Rapp said of the team’s attitude on Saturday.

The consolation championship marked the best finish in the history of the Panthers’ varsity soccer program.

Saturday’s heroics were only possible though thanks to a dramatic Friday rally against Worland. After falling behind 2-0 at halftime to a Worland team that swept the Panthers in Northwest quadrant play during the regular season, Powell found its second wind.

“Before the Worland game, I told the boys the first 20 minutes could decide the game,” Rapp said. “I was wrong. It was the first 20 minutes of the second half.”

Down two goals, Powell scored as Ouellette made an unselfish feed to Dylan Ulmer on a two-on-one play to halve the Warriors’ lead just three minutes into the second half.

“Ty definitely could have gotten a shot off, but he was unselfish like we have been preaching all year and laid the ball off for Dylan,” Rapp said. “From there it was just an easy one-on-one against the goalie.”

In the 57th minute, Powell pulled even as Wichman knocked home an assist from Wise, chipping the ball over the Worland keeper with a nifty right-footer. Six minutes later, Wise found himself on the receiving end of a header from Keithen Schwahn, redirecting the ball with his own head into the top right corner of goal for the game-winner.

“We held tight for the final 17 minutes,” said Rapp, who claims it felt like an eternity. “Dan Katz came into the game for about five minutes and saved a goal on the goal line. John Kissner made three or four great saves in those last minutes to keep us out of overtime.”

Katz had played a significant role for the Panthers throughout the regular season before suffering a knee injury in Powell’s play-in contest. His participation in the state tournament had been described as doubtful by Rapp in the days leading up to the championships.

The Panthers’ state tournament began with an 8-0 loss to eventual 3A runner-up Buffalo.

“Buffalo was a stronger team than us and they showed it,” Rapp said. “We never really threatened.”

Powell finishes the season with a 6-12 record. All but one of the Panthers’ losses came to teams ranked in the top five of Class 3A. The remaining game came during season-opening jamboree action against a 4A squad.

“We won three of the last four games and became the first Powell soccer team to place at state,” said Rapp. “We all felt that it was weird to celebrate a low finish, but at the same time they all knew it was an improvement and a benchmark to improve on.”

Powell graduates four seniors from its 2011 state tournament roster.

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