Apr 12, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorReed Axthelm scored a pair of late goals in Wednesday's home victory.
For the first 72 minutes of Tuesday's soccer game between the Riverton and Pinedale boys at Wolverine Field, it looked for the world as though the sides were destined to play to a scoreless draw under sunny skies on a lovely spring afternoon.
But, Reed Axthelm would have none of it.
In the 73rd minute, Riverton's in-form striker beat the Wrangler goalkeeper in a race for the ball at the edge of the area when the netminder charged off his line to clear it to safety, only for Axthelm to arrive a split-second earlier -- just enough time to chip the ball up over the fallen Pinedale stopper and watch it dribble across the line and into the net for the eventual game-winning goal.
It was the first of two goals for Axthelm, along with another by Nic Fenton in the Wolverines' 3-0 home victory in Class 3-A Southwest conference action.
Riverton carried the play and the bulk of possession throughout, but was unable to breach a resolute Wranglers defense, despite coming close on several occasions, the first of which was an Axthelm opportunity in the fourth minute, only to watch the chance go wanting, as the ball went wide of goal.
Axthelm continued to probe the Pinedale back line time and again, threatening in the 19th and 28th minutes, also to no avail, as the match saw the sides head to the halftime dressing room at 0-0.
As the second half got under way, the Riverton defense continued to match the visitors, repelling what little pressure they could muster against defenders Sam Shepardson and Jason Thoren. The few chances that penetrated were dealt with expertly by goalkeeper Slade Becker.
In the 45th minute, Shepardson decided to take matters on himself, as the burly center back went on a bombing run down the right flank, carrying the ball all the way to the end line around a Pinedale defender before centering the ball for a waiting teammate in the box - but again, no goal.
With Axthelm having no luck to that point and the Wolverines being without Braden Djezveian, who was out of the lineup, other squad members needed to step up.
In the 69th minute, Steven Jones did exactly that with a speculative effort from distance, crashing a thunderbolt off the crossbar, much to the relief of the beaten Pinedale keeper, who could do nothing about it.
Finally, moments later, Axthelm's resoluteness paid off as the Wolverines' talisman hit pay dirt for a 1-0 lead, which he added to moments later in the 76th minute, before Fenton finished off the scoring with a strike in second-half stoppage time to close the deal for the home club.
However, despite the lopsided scoreline at game's end, Riverton head coach Aziz Waheed was pleased with the result, but not necessarily with the means to which his charges came to their end on the day.
"I was disappointed in our execution and lack of effort," said Waheed. "I don't know if it was a case of tired legs after all the soccer we played over the weekend or what, but our movement was sluggish. We have to play better."
Axthelm now has 10 goals in the season's first nine games, and if anyone was going to break through and accomplish the mission against the green-clad visitors, he was the man, said Waheed.
"It was definitely an effort goal," he said. "He was finally able to get one over."
With the Wolverines' next match against a rugged Worland squad at home on Thursday, Waheed knows his side must improve on their performance against Pinedale, he said.
"Worland's going to be a tough game," said Waheed. "We can't rest on our talent alone."
According to the Big Red bench boss, the season is an ever-changing tapestry, a canvas upon which to paint a picture which will hopefully lead to a return trip to Sheridan for the Class 3-A state tournament.
"We use the season as a source of constant re-assessment of where we are as a team," said Waheed. "We must be at our best all game long."
Riverton (4-3-2, 1-0-1 Class 3-A Southwest) drew level with Star Valley atop the league table with the win. The Wolverines host the Warriors of Worland at 5 p.m. Thursday.
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