JACKSON — The Green River High School boys soccer team suffered a heartbreaking loss Thursday morning in the first round of the state tournament in Jackson.
After a scoreless 40 minutes of soccer, Cheyenne East High School netted the first goal midway through the second half. Instead of rolling over and admitting defeat, the Wolves evened the score less than one minute later. Just over 15 minutes later, the Thunderbirds scored another goal to regain the lead. GRHS did everything it could in the final minutes to tie things up again, but Cheyenne East held on and closed out the match with a narrow 2-1 victory.
Going into Thursday’s matchup, Green River was riding a wave of momentum and carried it into the start of the first half.
Exactly one minute in, GRHS pieced together its first scoring chance on a corner kick, but the team couldn’t capitalize. Over the next 20 minutes, Green River fought hard for possession, but the Thunderbirds defense didn’t give the Wolves much to work with.
Midway through the half, Erik Gwaltney connected with Chase Stoeger on a long throw in. The senior defender threw the ball inside the 18-yard box, but Stoeger deflected the ball straight into the goalkeeper’s hands after getting a head on it.
Over the next six minutes, GRHS applied pressure on Cheyenne East’s defense. With just over 14 minutes remaining in the half, Gwaltney connected with Oran-Watts Pavey inside the box, but the sophomore forward deflected the ball straight to the goalie once again.
After the two close calls by the Wolves, Cheyenne East pieced together a few chances of its own, but GRHS goalkeeper Tyler Killett played big in the net and kept the score locked at 0-0. Both teams continued to fight for possession, but Green River won most of the battles in the final two minutes.
With just over a minute and a half remaining, Gwaltney kicked a free kick from just outside the corner of the 18-yard box. The senior got a strong shot on net, but the goalkeeper made the save to keep the game scoreless.
The score remained locked at 0-0, but the Wolves opened up the second half still carrying most of the momentum. Less than six minutes in, Nick Findlow found Watts-Pavey inside the 18-yard box, but Watts-Pavey fired his shot right into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Over the next nine minutes, GRHS pieced together two more chances, but Cheyenne East countered and scored the game’s first goal in the 52nd minute.
The goal did take the wind out of the Wolves sails, but less than one minute later GRHS evened things up. After a hand ball was called, Gwaltney kicked a free kick from just outside the box and found the head of Haden Counts for the equalizer.
Not only was GRHS right back in the game, but the goal gave Green River a whole new level of energy to play off. With just over 16 minutes remaining in the match, GRHS senior AJ Vergara delivered a strong throw into the Thunderbirds’ box, but the goalkeeper caught the ball before anyone could touch it.
Over the next nine minutes, the teams battled for possession, but neither team could piece together another score. Finally, with just over seven minutes remaining, Cheyenne East capitalized on a free kick and shot the ball past Killett into the back of the net. Green River had a wall set up, but the ball went right over the defenders’ heads and across the goal line.
With not much time remaining, GRHS had to react fast. With just over two minutes remaining, the Wolves made a strong run into the box, and the ball bounced over the head of the goalkeeper. Counts fired a strong shot on a wide-open net, but at the last second a Cheyenne East defender blocked the shot and cleared the ball away from danger.
the Wolves tried to keep the pressure on, but the Thunderbirds held on and closed out the match with a one-goal win.
Up next, GRHS will play No. 4-ranked Kelly Walsh High School on Friday, May 17, in the consolation round at 11 a.m. Friday’s match is a must win for the Wolves if they wish to keep their postseason hopes alive.