The last time the Powell High School boys soccer team squared off against Douglas, the Bearcats used the “boot and chase” strategy to great effect, earning a 3-2 win at the Todd Malonek Southwest Invitational in Green River.
A wind-blown contest Friday at Panther Stadium, however, forced Douglas to all but abandon that strategy, something Panthers head coach Jeff Dent and his squad planned for. Powell put the Bearcats on their heels from the start and both teams battled the wind as well as each other to a 1-1 draw.
“It was quite a game; that wind really made a difference,” Dent said. “We worked in practice a lot about keeping it on the ground, nice short passes. That’s pretty much all you can do with a wind like that. You kick it up in the air and it’s going to come back at you — end up 2 feet from where you originally kicked it.”
Powell was aggressive from the outset, controlling possession with short, crisp passes and working the ball upfield. Dent said the last time these teams met, it wasn’t a controlled game. There was a lot more ball control this time around, on the part of both teams.
“We fell into the boot and chase last time, played their game a little bit,” Dent said. “This game, we focused more on possession and passing, and the guys really stepped up and played that game. Douglas did, too, but not as well as we did. We out-possessed them significantly, I thought.”
Despite the Panthers controlling the action and taking several shots on goal with the wind in their faces, the Bearcats won the first half, taking a 1-0 lead into halftime.
“We took a fair number of shots, but I think we need to work on our finishing a little more,” Dent said. “We need to get more comfortable in front of the net, instead of trying to take that quick shot with people in front of you.”
In the second half, Powell continued to push the ball up the field with success. Dent said some minor tweaks to the offensive and defensive formations utilized the Panthers’ strengths.
“I really like what we have going right now, I think we have more control in the middle,” he explained. “We moved Cameron [Wentz] to the outside, and it’s a position he’s played a lot over the years. He looks like he’s really shining in that position.”
Dent also liked the ball control and movement of Ernie Acevedo and Luis Gutierrez, as well as the play of Austin Haslem.
“What I’ve seen from that young man [Haslem] is he’s stepped up,” Dent said. “He’s remembering his plays, his movement on the field, where to be. He’s a valuable asset to have in the middle.”
With 28 minutes left in regulation, Panthers defender Steven Shopa intercepted a clearing shot by Douglas and found the back of the net for his first goal of the season to tie the game at 1-1.
“The ball came out to him [Shopa], and he just put his muscles into it — put a low, hard shot on goal,” Dent said. “It hit the goalie’s hand so hard, he couldn’t catch it. It was a great shot. It’s showing that hard work is paying off for him.”
Neither team could score in the two overtime halves and the game ended with a tie. Dent said the team felt a tinge of disappointment at not getting a win, but overall was happy with the result.
“It was disappointing a bit; we expected to beat them,” he said. “But then again, the last two times we’ve met them, they beat us. We told the guys, ‘We tied ‘em, that’s a big step forward.’ We were able to improve on some things, and how to keep doing that moving forward.”
Gabe Katz and Ashton Brewer split time in the net for the Panthers, and both played well, with Katz recording four saves and Brewer three.
“I was glad to have them both in there,” Dent said. “Either one can play, so it’s hard to say which one I want to play.”
The Panthers hosted Worland Monday afternoon at Panther Stadium. Game results will be in Thursday’s Powell Tribune.