Panthers’ title hopes fall just short in Jackson

Cinderella season ends with 2-0 loss

Posted 5/21/19

The Powell High School boys’ soccer team spent much of its first season under a new head coach proving its ascension as one of the top teams in the state in 3A was no fluke.

That need to …

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Panthers’ title hopes fall just short in Jackson

Cinderella season ends with 2-0 loss


The Powell High School boys’ soccer team spent much of its first season under a new head coach proving its ascension as one of the top teams in the state in 3A was no fluke.

That need to show they belonged led the Panthers (13-5-1) on an improbable run through the 3A State Tournament in Jackson over the weekend. Powell won its first two games against Rawlins and Riverton by identical 1-0 scores and advanced to Saturday’s 3A championship game for the first time in program history.

Against top-ranked and undefeated Worland, however, the underdogs weren’t the only team with something to prove. Looking to close out a season for the ages, the Warriors (19-0) capped their undefeated campaign with a 2-0 win over Powell, securing their second straight state title.

“I’m happy that we made it to the final; we were in the tournament to win the tournament,” said PHS head coach Dave Gilliatt, adding, “Unfortunately, we came up short of our final goal, which was to beat Worland.”

Worland had won three close games between the squads during the regular season and both teams came prepared to play in Saturday’s title game. Neither was able to gain an advantage for much of the first half.

“I think the first 20 minutes, we competed with them [Worland] a lot closer; I think as the game progressed, they started to have a little bit more of an advantage,” Gilliatt said. “They had a few more possessions.”

Worland finally broke the stalemate with 11 minutes left in the half, when Andrew Edholm redirected a corner kick for the first score of the game. The Warriors scored an insurance goal in the game’s 48th minute — a header from Luke Mortimer off a corner kick by Rudy Sanford.

“The good thing is we stopped them from scoring in open play,” Gilliatt said. “In that regard, I think there are some positive things there we can take from it. My defense did a great job. I thought Cameron Wentz and Landon Sessions both really stepped up and had great games.”

Tasked again with covering one of the best attacking forwards in the state in Worland’s Rylan Mocko, freshman defender Reece Bauer held his ground, not allowing Mocko to score.

“Mocko is a dangerous player — one of the best in the state,” Gilliatt said. “... But I think we came out with a good gameplan for Reece [Bauer] to mark him up, and he never scored. Reece did an excellent job of shutting him out.”

With plenty of time left, the Panthers continued to play hard to the whistle. But Konnor Macy proved up to the task in net for the Warriors, turning away shot after shot to secure the win.

“I thought we needed to have more scoring chances; there were some times in the box we couldn’t quite get clean shots,” Gilliatt said. “I would have liked to have tested that keeper a little bit more. He’s a good keeper, but we have some good shooters as well. Credit to Worland’s back line.”

Gilliatt had high praise for Worland’s Daniel Weyrich, a center mid he called “the player of the game” for the Warriors.

“No. 8 [Weyrich] was everywhere, he was definitely one of the biggest impacts on the game on either side, and I told him so after the game,” Gilliatt said. “He was just all over the place.”

For the Panthers, Gilliatt said Garrett Morris made an impact, and Ashton Brewer in net came up with some big saves to keep the contest close.

“Garrett [Morris] is a big player as a freshman. He’s one of our most talented players and he’s made a huge impact,” Gilliatt said. “Ashton Brewer had some really, really good saves. They [Worland] could have scored several times on us, and Ashton made the saves he needed to in open play.”

After the game, Gilliatt initially found himself at a loss for words, as emotions hit the team hard. Assistant coach Russ Schwahn stepped in to address the team, reminding the young squad of all they’ve accomplished this season.

“We told the kids after the game they had nothing to hang their heads about,” Schwahn said. “This team is not finished; they have a lot of soccer left to play together. Today we were knocking on the door; next year we knock it down.”

When he found his voice, Gilliatt reminded the team they had made it farther than any other team in program history, and reiterated how proud he was of them.

“I’m really happy with how much these boys have turned around the program. They’ve got a lot to be proud of,” Gilliatt said. “I don’t want them to be satisfied with that completely, I want them to still be hungry. But I also want them to be pleased and proud of what they accomplished this year.”

Adding to the team’s accomplishments was the release of All-Conference and All-State selections on Sunday afternoon. Earning All-Conference honors were Ashton Brewer at goalkeeper, Reece Bauer and Cameron Wentz as defenders, midfielder Ernie Acevedo and forward Sam Bauer. Named to the All-State team were Brewer, Wentz and Acevedo.


Panthers 1, Rawlins 0 OT

The Panthers opened the tournament Thursday with a 1-0 overtime win against Rawlins. The Outlaws were still reeling from the death of one of its players the weekend before, making for an emotional start to the tournament.

“We wanted to show some reverence and respect for the loss of their player, and we knew they would come in fired up and inspired,” Gilliatt said. “I wasn’t sure what team to expect, and we went into that game with a lot of nerves — more than we’ve had before any game up to that point. It was good to get the win and get the nerves out of our system.”

The two teams battled to a 0-0 stalemate in regulation, though Gilliatt said the Panthers had their chances.

“We were attacking; we had some good shots and opportunities,” he said. “I felt like we were winning that game.”

In the game’s first overtime period, midfielder Acevedo dribbled the ball around Rawlins’ left back and made a quick run to the box. The defender clipped Acevedo’s feet, cutting the scoring run short and setting up a penalty kick. Freshman Hawkin Sweeney has been the Panthers’ go-to for penalty kicks and didn’t disappoint on Thursday, burying the game winner.

“The ref was a little slow to call the penalty, which made me a little nervous,” Gilliatt said. “Hawkin [Sweeney] just drilled the shot; he’s always a consistent penalty-taker. We held Rawlins at that point, and the boys did a good job at time mangement in the final period.”


Panthers 1, Riverton 0

Friday’s contest was a rematch of the regular-season finale that saw Riverton earn a 1-1 tie. It was the fourth time the two teams had met this season, with the Panthers holding a 2-0-1 advantage.

“... Even though we were taking Riverton seriously, it was a team we knew we could beat,” Gilliatt said. “We also knew what players to look out for. Credit to Riverton, they continued to block shots.”

The winning goal came on another penalty kick in the second half, after a Riverton player inadvertently scooped a ball in his own box with his arm. Sweeney was once again called on to take the kick, and buried it in the back of the net.

After the goal, it was up for the Panther defense to hold, and when momentum began to swing toward Riverton, Gilliatt made a crucial substitution.

“Riverton gave us a lot of space, but once time started to run out, they played a totally different style,” Gilliatt said. “They were really pressing us, and there were a few times they almost scored on us. They were definitely threatening. Momentum was shifting, so I subbed in Adrian Gellar.”

Once on the field, Gellar proved to be the spark the Panthers needed, injecting what Gilliatt referred to as “massive energy” into the game.

“He [Gellar] is one of those kids that has no fear; I don’t know if he doesn’t sense pain or what it is,” Gilliatt explained. “I put him in a position where he was attacking, and he just kept carrying the ball into their half and just gave the defense some relief. ... He re-energized the whole team, and that’s what saw us out of that game.”

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