News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Wolverine boys bounce back from opening loss to earn consolation title
May 20, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer
ROCK SPRINGS -- A three-goal assault in the second half propelled the Riverton Wolverines boys soccer team to the consolation championship at the Wyoming High School state soccer tournament with a 3-0 win over host Rock Springs Saturday.
Riverton finished the state tournament with a 2-1 record. It was the second consecutive Class 4-A state consolation championship for the Wolverines (10-6-2).
"We ended on a positive, and the ending was cool," a content RHS head soccer coach Erly Cornejo said.
With both teams struggling to mount offensive challenges through much of the first half, it was Rock Springs Tiger Lance Noomen who gave Riverton a scare when a through ball in the 35th minute left him one on one with Wolverine goalkeeper Mike Jones. But Noomen could not generate a shot in stride and the score remained 0-0 at halftime.
During the halftime break, Cornejo and assistants Aziz Waheed, Zach Tolman and Brady Samuelson huddled, made adjustments to overload Riverton's offensive attack, and gathered the team with an emotional plea to end their season by playing their best soccer.
And that's exactly what happened.
"We drew something up, and the kids got out there and did it. They made the adjustments and deserved the win. We overloaded (Rock Springs) because they man marked," Cornejo said.
With a rejuvenated offense, the Wolverines scored their first goal when sophomore Deitrick Becker did not allow Tiger Kellyn Goodrich to clear the ball, and senior midfielder Aaron Nirider, playing in his final game, drilled his first-ever varsity goal in the 45th minute.
The Wolverines almost had another goal on a penalty kick. Riverton's coaches called for senior Xavier Webb to take the PK, and Webb beat Rock Springs keeper Kyler Yerkovich with a rip that hit the bottom of the crossbar and the back of the net. But Becker was called for encroachment, and Webb's second penalty kick missed high.
Both Webb and Becker found redemption from their missed PK just minutes later when Becker's perfect corner kick found Webb, who leaped over the top of the Tiger defense at the far post to head in Riverton's second goal in the 69th minute.
Rock Springs got one more look in the 71st minute, but senior Jones's kick save of a close-range shot kept Riverton with a two-goal lead.
It was the last good shot the Tigers would have as Riverton's defense of Caleb Ogg, Lars Becker, Scot Sowards and Webb prevented any serious threats for the rest of the match.
With the wind picking up in Riverton's favor, Rock Springs was forced to use two players on their goal kicks -- one to hold the ball -- in the final ten minutes which allowed the Wolverine strikers and midfielders to play up more than normal and keep the pressure on.
Exchange student Juan Buitargo pressed the ball to the left corner and crossed a perfect pass to junior Logan Hartbank for Riverton's last goal in the 79th minute.
As the team huddled one last time, Cornejo held up the consolation trophy.
"You did what we asked you to do at halftime. Thank you for letting us be a part of this season," Cornejo said.
Laramie downed Riverton 2-0 in the opening round of the tournament and beat Gillette 2-1 (3-1 shootout) to claim the state championship.
Riverton advanced to Saturday's consolation match with a 4-1 victory over Kelly Walsh on Friday.
Sheridan beat Cheyenne Central 2-0 for the third-place boys trophy.
All-Cheyenne girls final
In the Class 4-A girls bracket, Cheyenne East beat Cheyenne Central 2-1 (5-4 shootout) for the state championship. Laramie beat Sheridan 4-0 for third place and Casper Natrona beat Casper Kelly Walsh 2-0 for the consolation title.
The Riverton girls dropped both of their state tournament matches to Laramie 7-0 and Casper Natrona 5-0.