After over 40 minutes of missed opportunities and midfield battles, Natrona finally broke through.
But when the Fillies found the net, it triggered an even bigger scoring explosion from Jackson.
Avery Potter opened the scoring with a shot from distance before Raychl Fairbanks scored a hat trick in 15 minutes to power Jackson to a 3-1 Class 4A West Conference victory at Cheney Alumni Field on Thursday afternoon.
For Jackson head coach Thomas Ralston, it was a formal start to the Class 4A season after years in Class 3A.
“We’re enjoying the 4A competition,” he said. “The girls have been just great.”
Both teams spent the first half battling the drizzle and stiff breeze.
Only four combined shots on goal were registered in the first 40 minutes, none of them causing significant trouble for goalkeepers.
Jackson had an opportunity to open the scoring in the 13th minute off a corner kick, but the Natrona defense held strong and cleared the ball of any danger. The Broncs’ best opportunity came in the 26th minute when Annabel Hagen slipped behind the Fillies’ back line, but her shot was softly corralled by Natrona’s Erin Bergman.
Marquel Gibson had the same opportunity, having slipped behind the Jackson defense, but her shot sailed wide of the net in the 32nd minute and was the last true chance either team had in the first half.
Gibson came up limping late in the first half before being subbed off. She did not return to the action.
It didn’t take long for business to pick up in the second half.
Sophomore forward Potter fired a shot from distance that found its way into the back of the net less than 4 minutes into the second half.
Then Jackson jostled its back line, allowing the Broncs to move forward quicker, which they took full advantage of.
Fairbanks re-directed the first goal in after an initial shot came off the far post and fell to her feet. She gave the Broncs the lead just 8 minutes later when Hagen sent a low cross through the box and Fairbanks guided in with her back foot.
Natrona didn’t have time to answer before Fairbanks capped her hat trick on a free kick. Slipping the ball past the wall, Fairbanks guided her shot into the lower corner where Bergman had no chance of making the save.
“When (Fairbanks) and Annabel get going,” Ralston said, “those two are tough to stop.”
The Fillies never went away and were certainly in the game until the final whistle, but they couldn’t connect on the final pass that truly threatened the defense.
Jackson was able to hang on in part because of conditioning, which the Broncs now have plenty of after picking up an extra game on Tuesday against Rock Springs.
“Six games in eight days is a lot,” Ralston said. “But with spring break, you do what you can and when we come back we’ll do the same thing.”