Apr 23, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorLander's No. 1-ranked footballers ran over Buffalo on the strength of a pair of goals by Jed Welsh in a home victory.
Uneasy is the head which wears the crown.
Just don't tell that to the Lander Valley Tigers, who ascended to the top of the Class 3-A boys soccer rankings last week.
In fact, it seems to suit the Tigers perfectly fine, thank you, as Lander pounded their guests from Buffalo in comprehensive fashion by a 4-1 scoreline on Friday.
Lander's Tony Schaff scored the opener in the 10th minute, rolling home a loose ball on the doorstep following a Tigers corner kick, scoring his second goal in as many games.
The contest remained at 1-0 through the break, but it didn't take long for Welsh to begin his assault on the Bison goal, scoring in the 47th minute on an assist from Jake Calhoun to make it 2-0.
Breven Nichol got in on the scoring act with a strike off a set-up by Daniel Lobera in the 62nd minute, which killed off the game, although Buffalo managed to pull one back in the 65th minute, before the hosts answered with Welsh's second of the game, again from Nichol, in the 72nd minute, to close out the scoring.
Despite the fact Lobera, the Tigers' leading scorer, only picked up an assist in the game, his presence nevertheless had a massive influence on the match, said Tigers head coach Dean Schaff.
"Daniel had a great game," he said. "He created many chances for his teammates."
As for Welsh's swashbuckling heroics, Schaff put it down to the lanky, speedy midfielder's ability to improvise on the fly, he said.
"Jed's definitely a dynamic player," said Schaff. "He's really good at creating his own opportunities."
Although it was a close contest until midway through the second stanza on a blustery afternoon, Schaff said his side carried out their marching orders with precision and efficiency.
"The directive we gave to them was to just go out and take care of business, especially with the conditions being what they were," he said. "We did what we needed to do."
As for his squad's lofty ranking, Schaff said it doesn't mean a whole lot in the big picture.
"The No. 1 ranking doesn't mean a whole lot," he said. "It simply means coaches around the state have noticed what we've been doing."
What does matter is a return trip to the Class 3-A state championship game in Sheridan next month.
However, Schaff realizes his club now presents a proper opportunity for every team they play from here on out to test their mettle against the Tigers, he said.
"We have a target on out backs now," said Schaff. "We have to go out every game and prove we're the team to beat."
Lander (5-2-1, 1-1 Class 3-A Southeast) will next travel to Pinedale for a road match against the Wranglers on Tuesday.
The Lady Tigers were defeated at home, 6-0, by the Lady Bison of Buffalo on Friday.
The contest was close at halftime, as the visitors led by a 2-0 scoreline.
However, after the game resumed, things went horribly wrong for the home side, said Lander head coach Gabe Joyes.
"We just had a complete defensive breakdown," he said. "We didn't have the same fight we showed in our last game against Cody."
Indeed, the Lady Tigers were coming off a hard-fought 1-0 road loss to the Fillies in their last outing, which made Friday's result even more astounding, with much work to do before Lander returns to the pitch, said Joyes.
"We need to be able to battle better with other teams in the midfield," he said. "We have a lot to pack into one practice on Monday, but we need to pull it together, focus on our transition and get our confidence back."
Lander (3-5, 2-0 Class 3-A Southeast) will play at Pinedale on Tuesday.
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