NCHS vs Jackson

Natrona’s Danny Diaz attempts a goal with a bicycle kick as Jackson’s George Chase defends on Thursday afternoon at Cheney Alumni Field in Casper.

Dan Cepeda, Star-Tribune

It took only seven minutes, and from there it was apparent that it was Natrona’s, and Danny Diaz’s, day.

The junior forward chipped in a cross to Reegan Chadderdon, who slotted the shot to the back of the net, which set the tone for Natrona in a 4-1 win over Jackson at Cheney Alumni Field.

Diaz, who spent last year on the junior varsity at Kelly Walsh after a successful freshman year at Natrona, is back in prime form for the Mustangs.

“It’s a good start, a fun start,” he said. “I’m happy to be back and be here with this jersey on.”

Diaz followed that assist with three goals of his own to power the Mustangs.

He got out in space against Jackson, and the Broncs had no answer for him. The Broncs tried to force him to the boundaries, but his speed got around the defense and would allow him to find a way to put the ball on net.

“I look for the goal to see if I can beat players,” he said. “But if I can’t then I’m confident enough that the cross is going to be there. I’m confident enough to cross or to score, and that is what you have to do in the game of soccer. And I’m confident that I can beat anyone in the state.”

He showed it by relentlessly peppering Jackson goalie Jack Cornish with shots. Cornish withstood a number of chances, but there was only so much he could do.

By the time that Jackson answered, the Mustangs already had a two-goal advantage late in the first half, and Natrona had the two-time defending Class 3A champions on the ropes.

“I knew it would be a tough test for the kids, and I’m really proud of how they responded to them,” Natrona head coach Chad Miller said. “I knew they would be a controlled, organized team and they fought to the end. So I’m proud of our kids’ resilience tonight.”

That early goal allowed Natrona to dictate the pace, something that Miller and his team feel more comfortable doing.

It also freed the defense to play with more confidence and further played into the confidence of the forwards that they could score against such a formidable opponent.

“I always tell the kids to start fast,” Miller said. “Put the team right away on the back of their heels so we tried to do that during the Jamboree and again through the start of the season as well.”

Two of Diaz’s goals were unassisted, mostly the work of foot skill and speed, while the other was off a free kick that Cornish couldn’t corral.

“He needs to get his goal-scoring confidence,” Miller said, “and the team around him, possession-wise and feeding him, needs to get some confidence that we’re still working on with getting more familiar with each other.”

It was a good start to the regular season ahead of Friday’s 6-2 victory against Evanston, and served as a notice the Mustangs will be tough throughout the season.

This story originally ran in the Casper Star-Tribune.

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