May 19, 2017 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterRiverton's boys were defeated by Worland after going down to 10 players following a sending off.
SHERIDAN - Playing a man down the majority of the match, the Riverton Wolverines boys soccer team fell to Worland 1-0 Thursday in the first round of the Class 3-A state soccer tournament Thursday afternoon in Big Horn.
Six days ago, Worland was fighting just to qualify for the state tournament and barely survived its play-in game against Newcastle, which had managed just two wins this season. But Riverton saw a different Warrior team Thursday, one that had struggled five hours to make the short trip over the Big Horns in the snow, but made it to the match on time.
And once Worland hit the field, it dominated pace and play from the start.
"Worland showed up to play today, and we did not at all," Riverton head coach Aziz Waheed said. "I truthfully can say that was our worst performance of the season. I wouldn't let the kids buy into the 'rest turns into rust' saying, but I saw it."
Waheed was referring to the fact that before Thursday the Wolverines had just played one match in May, creating an unprecedented lack of pre-tournament, game-paced preparation.
The Wolverines had just one shot on frame the entire match Thursday, while Worland used the width of the expansive field at the Big Horn Equestrian Center to maintain constant pressure on Riverton.
To make matters worse, Riverton's scoring leader, senior Reed Axthelm, received two yellow cards for infractions off the ball in the first half, causing his disqualification and hampering the Wolverines' ability to put pressure on Worland.
After Axthelm was disqualified, Riverton was forced to play with just 10 players for the rest of the match. The team tried to adjust formations late in the contest, with Slade Becker, Nic Fenton and Evan White trying hard to take up the offensive slack.
But it was to no avail.
"The guys came out focused today. I think we learned a lot from that Newcastle game. Our team is so young and they grew up a little bit," Worland head coach Ron Overcast said. "We stressed defense, but we have been working on getting the ball out wide for the last month. It's so nice to see the guys execute like they did."
Gavin Weyrich punched in Worland's game winner in the 61st minute. Riverton's best opportunity to equalize came on a set piece nine minutes later, but White's shot sailed wide.
"We lost our composure early, and our kids tried hard. I don't think it was that noticeable that we played with 10 men, but we lost all width," Waheed said, adding that Riverton had not practiced playing in formations with 10 players.
The loss sent Riverton, a pre-tournament favorite to make the championship match, to consolation play Friday morning against Buffalo.
In other first round 3-A games, Lander destroyed Douglas 7-0, Cody beat Star Valley 2-1, and Torrington advanced against Buffalo 3-0.
Riverton 4, Buffalo 3
On Friday, the Wolverines bounced back and held off the Buffalo Bison 4-3 in overtime to advance to Saturday's consolation championship match against Star Valley.
Buffalo scored first, but Riverton also pressed the Bison throughout the match and held a 2-1 lead at intermission.
Dayne Bradley, Evan White and Nic Fenton scored for the Wolverines in regulation. In overtime, and after missing a penalty kick, goalie Shawn Curtain punted the ball to senior Slade Becker who dribbled his way through the Bison defense before he fired the game winner in the 91st minute.
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