In a battle of 3A heavyweights, the Powell High School boys’ soccer team came up just short against top-ranked and undefeated Worland Tuesday, losing 1-0 at Panther Stadium.
It was the third meeting of the season between these two teams, with the Warriors earning the season sweep. That said, first-year PHS head coach Dave Gilliatt said he was proud of his team’s effort in a game that could have swung either way.
“I’m competitive, and I know my boys are competitive, so we weren’t overall happy with the result,” he said. “But I saw a lot of improvement out of my players. They played well as a team against the toughest opposition they’ll face in a game situation. We deserve to have our heads high. That game could have easily gone 1-0 us.”
A 0-0 stalemate after the first half, Worland scored what would be the gamewinner on a free kick, just minutes into the second frame. The rest of the game was, much like the first, a showcase for both team’s defenses. As pleased as he was with the play of his keeper and back line, Gilliatt said that offensively, his team was a little flat. Gilliatt said wind was a factor for both sides, with the Panthers needing to capitalize better on their wind-aided opportunities.
“I don’t think we were firing on all cylinders,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit more room to improve. I had some players that I don’t think played to their full potential. The players I needed to step up defensively, did. But we could have done more on offense, and that can make the difference the next time we play them.”
Defensively, Cameron Wentz made his second straight start at center back, and along with Landon Sessions did a solid job of bottling up Worland’s Rylan Mocko, who Gilliatt said requires “a team effort to shut him down.” Reece Bauer was equally effective on the other side against Mocko, who was held scoreless for the game.
“It’s hard to say who played a better game, Cameron [Wentz] or Landon [Sessions], because they both played well,” Gilliatt said. “I think having another tall body back there takes some pressure off Landon as far as having to win every header. Cameron did a nice job of being aggressive coming through those balls. A good player can often be flexible, and Cameron is the type of player that can do that. He’s an effective attacking player, but he’s been most effective for us right now as a center back.”
Sophomore keeper Ashton Brewer also had a solid night in net, including a save on a near-post shot by Mocko, after he beat two defenders. Gilliatt said the difference in Brewer’s play from his freshman campaign is impressive.
“Ashton [Brewer] had some really, really good saves and kept us in the game. He saved everything that I would expect him to save, and then some,” Gilliatt said. “I look at video of him from his freshman year, and he’s improved a lot as a goalkeeper. Credit to him for the growth and continuing to improve — and the cool thing is, he still has a lot of room to grow.”
The Panthers have a busy weekend ahead, with a game at Lander Friday and Pinedale Saturday.
Gilliatt said both teams have strong players with great potential, and should not be overlooked.
“In both games the other team will have home field advantage, and these are important games,” Gilliatt said. “We’re not going to overlook either team. We want to win both games, and I think both are winnable games. We’ll just keep playing our game.”