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state soccer day 2

Powell's Matthew Hobbs prepares to head the ball during the Panthers' Class 3A semifinals game against Riverton in the Wyoming State High School Soccer Championships on Friday in Jackson.

JACKSON — Blinking after the opening whistle against Worland could cost the defending champion’s opponent the match. Buffalo discovered that on Friday afternoon, conceding within a minute and then trying to play from behind against the undefeated top seed. That didn’t end well for the Bison.

Worland junior Wyatt Wyman scored 35 seconds into the semifinal to give the Warriors a lead that stood for the match’s duration, giving them an opportunity to defend their title in the 2019 Wyoming State High School Class 3A Boys Soccer Championship with a 4-0 victory.

Buffalo did have an opportunity to equalize, most notably when Sawyer Sweckard deflected an attempted clearance from goalkeeper Konnor Macy toward the net. Macy came well out of his box to clear the ball only for it to bounce off Sweckard’s shins and up field. The senior chased down the ball with an open net but sent his shot well over the net.

Free kicks soared through the box without a recipient and shots sailed wide of net as the Bison threw what they had at leveling. And the match stayed competitive until junior Devon Mercado headed the ball into the back post from a corner with just 3 minutes remaining in the first half. That gave the Warriors momentum going into the second half, where senior Rylan Mocko and freshman Cole Venable added insurance goals.

Worland will be the mighty favorite going into the championship match, so it’s only fitting the challenger is a true underdog.

A 57th-minute goal from freshman Hawkins Sweeney lifted Powell to a 1-0 victory over Riverton, sending the Panthers to their first state championship appearance in program history. That goal came after nearly an hour of back-and-forth physical play and mounting anxieties. But that only made his feelings sweeter as he watched the ball go into the back of the net.

“It was really good passing, obviously, and everyone kept their head in the game,” Sweeney said of his second goal in as many days. “They had their right set of mind throughout the whole game and they didn’t let their guard down.”

In the final 5 minutes alone the Wolverines created multiple chances to equalize but the closest they ever got to beating goalkeeper Ashton Brewer sailed across the face of goal and out of play. Riverton was on the attack and brought its goalkeeper into the fray when an attempt was blocked at the final buzzer.

The Panthers ran toward their bench to celebrate before running across the width of the field to thank their families for their support. Together they’ve helped the Panthers get somewhere the program has never been before.

“There’s not really any pressure now,” Sweeney said. “And I’ve always considered myself someone who performs well under pressure anyway.”

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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