SHERIDAN — Through the ebbs and flows of the season, Kelly Walsh was used to finding its way to the top.
When they were down to 10 men against Rock Springs, they scored a late goal to end the Tigers’ 12-match unbeaten streak.
When the Trojans were sent to 10 men again on Thursday, they came back to beat Gillette in a shootout.
But being forced to play without starting defender Austin Kampa on Friday posed a lot bigger problem in practice than in preparation. Then, after the opening whistle at the Big Horn Equestrian Center, the Trojans lost much more.
Cheyenne Central’s Ross Elliott started his two-goal match with a goal in the 20th minute while the Trojans lost starters to injury throughout the 3-0 Central win to relegate Kelly Walsh to the third-place match in the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Boys Soccer Championship.
“We thought we could get some matchups that would set our defense up well,” Kelly Walsh head coach Bryan Chadderdon said. “It was obvious within the first five minutes that it was going to be a struggle.
“No discredit to the kids that were in there because they played hard and I thought for the most part played pretty well, but (Kampa’s) leadership, his ability to win balls in the air, his kind of calmness back there, his presence was missed as much as his play.”
Kampa wasn’t the only Trojan who missed time on the pitch.
Ramon Lopez was sidelined after a risky tackle early in the first half. He later returned to the match to provide an emotional lift, but by then the match had reached its final score.
Senior defender and Thursday hero Ryan McMullen left the match and did not return after taking a slide tackle to the legs. The co-captain’s absence on the field was immediately noticeable.
Not stopping there, freshman Kyle Woodruff suffered a concussion just minutes later and could not return.
“It was hard. It was very hard,” Chadderdon said. “I felt like our kids kept working and believing and fighting for sure.”
Kelly Walsh’s best chance came when Devin Palepale headed a ball past the keeper, which would have cut the lead to 2-1, but the ball deflected off the crossbar before being cleared out.
The Indians advanced to play Cheyenne East in Saturday’s championship match after the Thunderbirds escaped the calamity that defending champion Laramie could not.
Saturday’s championship saw Cheyenne East best Central for the title for the first time since 2004.