Scoring woes continued for the Powell High School boys soccer team Tuesday afternoon in Cody, as the Broncs controlled the action from the outset and sent the Panthers home with a 2-0 loss.
It was the second scoreless game in a row for the Panthers, following a 1-0 loss to top-ranked Worland last week.
“We’ve got a young team,” said Powell head coach Jeff Dent. “We have to remember that when games like this happen. Their experience is limited but growing.”
Cody (7-5, 1-2) kept the Panthers (2-7-1, 0-3) busy defensively for most of the opening frame, though the Broncs were unable to capitalize on their opportunities. Both teams were sluggish early, and the scoreboard reflected that. Bailey Ennist finally put Cody on the board with a goal at the 17th minute, and the Broncs took a 1-0 lead into the half.
“That first half, we were asleep,” Dent said. “We weren’t our team. I was surprised it was so quiet out on the field; they weren’t talking. But it seemed like Cody was almost doing the same thing, so we were able to hold our own in that first half.”
The Panthers began to show signs of life toward the end of the period, and came out a different team in the second.
“The second half was a game. That’s when we actually came alive,” Dent said. “We began playing good, hard soccer at that point, passing the ball, working the ball.”
Cody found a spark in the second half as well, playing harder than they had in the first.
“It was exciting,” Dent said. “We’d been telling them all week, they have to communicate and they have to play together. That was a good, solid second half.”
Cody added to its lead midway through the period, as Northwest College recruit Morgan Dowling slipped one past Panther keeper Gabe Katz to make the game 2-0. Powell continued to play hard until the final whistle, however, with Dent emptying his bench in attempt to catch the Bronc defenders in a mismatch.
“I was able to use my whole bench; we went through all the guys I could,” Dent said. “They all stepped up and played well. We were doing some things that got Cody back on their heels, moving the ball up the line, and it was working.”
Dent put junior midfielder Kyler Muffett, who’s seen limited playing time recently because of a dodgy ankle, on the outside and was impressed with his effort. Katz, who finished the game with four saves, had a solid outing in the net until a collision with a Cody player sent him to the sidelines with a hip injury. Dent said he would have liked to have seen a penalty on the play that sidelined his starting keeper.
“As our keeper [Katz] went for the ball, the Cody player jumped up and into him,” Dent said. “I was a little upset, I thought it was a card situation. The officiating crew did a good job, but I had a little conversation with the referee about protecting the goalie.”
Junior Dylan Lowery came on in relief.
Jace Smith and Garrett Stutzman saw time at the same position and coach Dent said they played an important part in the defensive strategy; Cameron Wentz and Ernie Acevedo also continued to play well together.
“Those two [Wentz and Acevedo] have a good combination, and that comes from years of playing together,” Dent said. “Jack Pool was back on defense as the third part of that triangle with those two, and it was effective.”
Dent said Pool can be a little slow to get the ball off his foot in previous games, but made a concerted effort against Cody to get the ball off faster.
“Cody was really pressuring him [Pool] that first half because he was holding on to the ball too long,” Dent explained. “The second half, after he got off a couple of passes, they backed off of him really fast. It was impressive to see.”
Powell finished the game with six shots on goal: Two by Rob Sessions, and one apiece for Acevoda, Steve Shopa, Landon Sessions and Noah Ouellette.
The Panthers head to Riverton Friday, squaring off with a Wolverines team they’ve beaten twice this year. It’s never easy to beat the same team three times in a season, but Dent expects good things from his team.
“We’re going to work this week on our finishing, different moves to score, because that’s been our problem,” he said. “Our mids and forwards need to work on their passes and touches to penetrate the defense. We really want to rack up some goals on Riverton, and if we can get that last piece just right up front there, I think we can be a dangerous team when we head to Star Valley and Pinedale.”