SHERIDAN — The eyes of Class 3A were staring at Torrington senior defender Garrett Cooper as he opted to turn toward the sideline with the ball instead of clear it out toward the corner.
Cooper had the defender on his hip when a crisp turn left the senior with space. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a friendly white jersey down field.
It was overtime, his team was exhausted, but he knew he could do it.
“Oh, I got this,” Cooper said to himself before he lobbed the long pass downfield.
He turned around, putting his back to the play in order to return to his defensive position, before AJ Shields even got to the ball.
“I got to put this in,” Shields thought as he got onto the ball. “I’ve got to end it here.”
The senior forward scored to the far post to lift Torrington to a dramatic 2-1 semifinal victory in overtime against Worland on Friday at Big Horn Equestrian Center, sending the TrailBlazers to the 2017 Wyoming High School Class 3A Boys Soccer Championship match.
“I saw him shoot it and it was just a perfect shot,” Cooper said. “The feeling was just, you can’t describe it.
“We’ve never been in a championship, never had anything like that and this is the year.”
Saturday will be Torrington’s first championship match in program history.
Awaiting the TrailBlazers in Saturday’s match is Cody, which held on in its own dramatic way.
The Broncs went up 1-0 as John Varian scored his third goal of the tournament in the 24th minute, just 7 minutes after a straight red card had forced Cody to play with 10 men. Lander was pushing forward but Cody still clung to that lead.
Then, in the 76th minute, another red card meant the Broncs would have to defend a one-goal lead with nine men for the final minutes of the match.
Tensions were high and every shot was met with eagerness, but Cody was able to hold on through it all.
“Going down two men to those guys was tough,” Cody head coach Kory Jansma said. “It was a little bit nerve racking because they’re a good team.”
Cody’s win served as vengeance for last year, where Lander came out on top in that semifinal match.
“You come in with a chip on your shoulder,” Jansma said. “You’re playing a good team, this is going to be a good game today.”
By the rules, those who received red cards will not be allowed to participate in the championship match.
After two months of soccer and the strenuous season, it ends with the final meeting.
Northwest Conference quadrant residents Cody and Worland will fight for supremacy of not just a few miles, but over who is the best Class 3A girls soccer team in the entire state Saturday.
Cody continued its march toward the championship with a 4-0 victory over Lander.
While it’s a lop-sided result in most cases, for the Fillies that margin seemed suspect because of their dominance in 3A.
“It’s always good to get a shutout,” head coach Marian Miears said. “Especially here at state because both teams played hard.”
Worland makes its appearance via a 4-1 win over Buffalo.
The Bison actually led initially but the Warriors’ combined attack was far too great and they rallied for four unanswered goals.
“I have two seniors in Shania McGarvin and Hannah Ozmon that want to win,” Worland head coach Danielle Warren said. “And one leads my defense, one leads my offense. And they work their butts off.”
Along with scorers Casey Wassum and BreAnna Parra, it gives the Warriors multiple offensive sources.
Saturday will be the third time time these two will have squared off this season.
“It’s not a challenge for us, it’s a challenge for them,” Warren said. “Obviously, they beat us twice so we’re the underdog. If they really beat us again then maybe they’re better than us. But, hey, third time is a charm, maybe we beat them.”
Including Powell in the consolation bracket, all three teams in the Northwest quadrant will play on Saturday.
Miears didn’t hide her feelings for the quadrant system, saying she much prefers the regional system to determine tournament berths.
“Just so you don’t have good teams knocking each other out in the first round,” she said. “That’s never good. You’re not finding the best soccer team when that happens.”