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Schedule blunder clouds county soccer rivalry

May 2, 2017 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

With so much on the line late in the season, it makes no sense for Riverton to play just one match in May prior to the Class 3-A state tournament.

Unfortunate.

That is the only word that begins to adequately describe the scheduling predicament that the Riverton High School boys and girls soccer teams must endure as they prepare for the biggest games of the season (more on that in a moment).

But, all will be forgotten next Tuesday when the Wolverines host Lander.

For the boys, the top-ranked Lander Tigers will provide a preview of what many believe could be the final two teams left in the championship bracket at the Class 3-A soccer state tournament in Sheridan beginning on May 18 at the Big Horn Equestrian Center.

The match promises to be an epic showdown. Lander is ranked No. 1 in Wyoming, Riverton is ranked second -- for now.

Circle May 9 on your calendar. This is one you won't want to miss.

It's not an understatement to say the Riverton vs. Lander boys match will be a donnybrook, which kicks off at about 7 p.m., after the girls match. It will finish under the lights.

In fact, the boys showdown promises to be one of the biggest soccer matches ever played at Wolverine Field, with the two best teams in Class 3-A going toe to toe.

The match is packed with intrigue.

Two of the top players in Wyoming in any class, Lander's Daniel Lobera and Riverton's Reed Axthelm, will play their final regular-season games.

"It's been awhile since we have had a game like this," said Riverton head coach Aziz Waheed, as he recalled recent-year conference championship matches Riverton played against Natrona and Green River.

"This is our county rival, and both of us are having successful seasons."

Earlier this year, Riverton lost to Lander 1-0 in a shortened game at the end of a tournament in Worland.

"We are a totally different team now," said Waheed.

After the match in Worland and because of a player's disciplinary issue, Waheed was forced to ask goalkeeper Slade Becker to become Riverton's striker.

"I was really sick about it and up most of the night," said Waheed.

"I hope people appreciate what we asked Slade to do. (Being our keeper) was all he focused on all summer long and all winter long. We had to do it."

Riverton, a team which now plays with more confidence and is among the state leaders in goal differential (plus 21), has not lost since.

"Here is where I"m at," said Waheed. "I grew up here, so playing Lander means a lot to me. So, we want to win, but Lander is good across the board."

And so goes the predicament.

The cross-county match against the Tigers will be Riverton's only game in the entire month of May prior to taking the field in the do-or-die first-round match at the state tournament.

It's odd the four games Riverton has played in its Southwest quadrant have already given the Wolverines an automatic ticket to state.

Theoretically, because there is no regional tournament in Class 3-A, the Wolverines could have 4-10 record and have earned an automatic berth to the state tournament.

And that ought to change.

Class 3-A should have regional soccer tournaments, so all teams can have games in the week leading up to the state tournament.

"I've mulled this over so many times," said Waheed. "I don't understand this quadrant system, and every 3-A coach I have spoken to also doesn't understand it. We're all scratching our heads as to why we don't have a two-conference system."

With so much on the line late in the season, it makes no sense for Riverton to play just one match in May prior to the state tournament.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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2017-10-22

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