May 26, 2014 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorIn coach Dan Howlett's final season, Lander lost just three times -- all to Jackson.
JACKSON -- An era came to a close for coach Dan Howlett after Jackson defeated the Lander Valley High School boys soccer team 3-1 in the Class 3-A state boys championship game Saturday afternoon.
The second half of the game was played in the rain. There was a 30-minute lightning delay six minutes into the second half.
In the last seven minutes, lightning returned, but officials decided to finish the game.
Big win in semis
Lander dominated the Powell Panthers 5-2 on Friday in the state semifinals to secure the spot in the championship bout. Lander has never won a state soccer title.
The title game Saturday was the first one ever for Howlett. The longtime LVHS coach is retiring after 29 years on the job.
"As I told the team after the game, I couldn't be prouder of the boys that I worked with," Howlett said.
"In all the teams that I have coached. this is a wonderful group to go out with. They are just great leaders and great teammates. If you are going to go, this is a good time to go out."
Jackson finished the season undefeated. Lander's only three losses were to Jackson. The Tigers fell 4-2 and 2-0 to the No. 1 team during the regular season.
"We played them strong the last two years," Howlett said.
Howlett felt the rain delay didn't affect the game
"I have done this about six times when you are in a big game and have to go sit on a bus," Howlett said. "It was good that it was a state tournament, because other times they would have sent you home."
Jackson 3, Lander 1
Jackson struck quickly in the title match on a Will Horstman goal. The forward received a perfect cross and booted it right in.
Before the half was up, Daniel Lobera deadlocked it for Landerat 1-1. Lobera had five goals in the state tournament.
"That was probably as many as anybody in the state tournament," Howlett said. "Daniel is just a real aggressive player. He goes after the ball."
Horstman scored his second goal before intermission for the one-goal advantage.
The rain turned out to be the story in the second half as it created a hard playing surface. Right after delay, Jackson scored to set the final margin.
Lander 5, Powell 2
The scoring machine of Kyle Leemon and Lobera was in full force Friday night in the semifinals.
Leemon and Lobera had two goals each to keep Powell chasing down the lead.
Casey Winger added the other goal.
"We were so close in busting it open so I could play a lot of subs," Howlett said. "They just kept on battling back. "
Lander was ahead 3-0 in the first half when Powell put its first goal in with four seconds left. Powell scored a minute into the second half.
Howlett used the final five minutes playing reserves in a state tournament atmosphere.
Lander 3, Star Valley 1
"It was a good solid win for us," Howlett said. "It was a hard, physical game."
Lobera came alive in the scoring column in his first state tournament game.
He tallied the first goal eight minutes left in the first half. Winger had the assist on the play.
One minute into the second half, Lobera registered his second goal for a 2-0 advantage for the Tigers.
One minute latter, Star Valley dug into the lead at 2-1.
The cushion was extended by Eli Lowham with just over a half of soccer to play.
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