May 13, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterROCK SPRINGS -- Just seven minutes into Riverton's Class 4-A West soccer semifinal match Friday against Rock Springs, Wolverine senior Shayden Coulson did his thing. The outside halfback stepped onto the track that surrounds the pitch at Rock Springs Junior High School, ran toward the field, did a handspring flip, and fired the ball at the Riverton goal.
The throw was too good. It went right into the net.
The goal didn't count -- throw ins are considered "indirect" and must touch a player prior to crossing the goal line -- but the great effort established early momentum in what turned out to be a thrilling 2-1 overtime loss for the Wolverines to the regular season West conference champions.
It was a dramatic high school soccer match.
"That was a lot of fun. It could have gone either way," head coach Erly Cornejo said.
It was fun -- and heart wrenching for Riverton players and fans.
Riverton jumped on the scoreboard first in the 19th minute, when defender Mike Jones sailed his left-footed corner kick to the far post where Kade Salisbury headed the ball toward the goal. Coulson headed in the finish and got one that counted.
Rock Springs didn't let the lead last for long. Just five minutes later, Luis Ortiz found Erick Piedra through the middle of Riverton's midfield and defense to tie the match at 1-1.
"They are good on the attack. They have good technical players," Cornejo said.
Riverton goalkeeper Logan Ridgway, who Cornejo said had an "outstanding" tournament, kept Riverton in the match. He was tested with a barrage of 20 shots, 10 of which were on frame. But most of the Tiger pressure came in the first half, and Riverton adjusted well at halftime.
"The first half we were letting them turn and run at us. They are so good on the ball. In the second half, we were on their backs and did a good job (defensively)," Cornejo said.
Neither team scored in the second period, although in the 41st minute, just after the halftime break, Tiger striker Carlos Lopez beat Riverton's defense. But his close-in shot to the far post hit the crossbar and rebounded into Ridgway's hands. The Tigers earned only one more good shot in regulation play, but Ridgway made the save.
As overtime started, Riverton got its best chance to take the lead when freshman Tristan White's powerful header off a corner kick looked like a sure goal, but a spectacular diving save by Gus Wagner, the Tiger keeper, kept the score even.
"What a save," Cornejo remarked after the match.
The Tigers netted their game winner in the second overtime when Alan Wendlandt sent a rocket to the far post from about 20-yards that a diving Ridgway just missed punching away from Riverton's goal. Riverton had one final opportunity off a corner kick and, with almost all of their players forward, the ball bounced off a Riverton back toward the goal - but without pace - which allowed Wagner to make an easy save and seal the win.
Saturday, the Wolverines opted to rest midfielder Josh Wright and Jones, who both have been battling late season injuries, for most of the match and fell to Kelly Walsh 4-0 to end the tournament in fourth place.
Green River won the West 4-A tournament title Saturday. The Wolves won three consecutive shoot outs over Casper Natrona, Kelly Walsh and Rock Springs to claim the title.
Riverton, which defeated Evanston 1-0 Thursday to earn a state berth, will open state tournament play Thursday against Sheridan, the Class 4-A East champions. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Big Horn Equestrian Center east of Sheridan.
In mid-March, Sheridan defeated Riverton 1-0 in what was the season opener for both teams.
Riverton 1, Rock Springs 1
Riverton 0, Kelly Walsh 1
Class 4-A boys high school
soccer state tournament
Thursday, May 17
4E) East vs. (1W) Green River - 11:30 a.m.
(3W) Kelly Walsh vs. (2E) Central - 11:30 a.m.
(3E) Laramie vs. (2W) Rock Springs - 4:30 p.m.
(4W) Riverton vs. (1E) Sheridan- 4:30 p.m.
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