Despite sporting an 0-7 record going into the game against Northwest College, the Golden Eagles were ranked 18th in NJCAA Division 1 to begin the season. The Trappers (3-1-1) could count its program’s wins against LCCC on one hand with a few fingers to spare, and a win on the road had not happened once in the program’s history.
But that all changed Saturday. In a game that featured four yellow cards and a red card against NWC, the Trappers survived a slow start to battle back in a bruising, physical contest, winning 1-0 on the road in Cheyenne.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where everything that could go wrong went wrong, and then we pull out a win in the end,” Rodrigues said. “We went down expecting a difficult game. We were bracing ourselves for just about anything.”
What Rodrigues didn’t expect was his team receiving four yellow cards in the first half, necessitating the first-year coach to rely on his bench to keep NWC in the game. Daniel Lobera was especially at risk, as another ejection would effectively end his season.
“I won’t complain about the officiating, but it was highly inconsistent for both teams,” Rodrigues said. “It was a very highly contested, very intense game.”
Rodrigues chalked LCCC’s winless record up to scheduling some very tough non-conference opponents to open the season; the Golden Eagles wouldn’t drop a conference game without a fight.
“It was desperation for them, as well as trying to prove something for us,” Rodrigues said. “We’ve never won at Laramie [County], so this was a big historical win for us.”
Historical significance notwithstanding, Rodrigues said what was even more impressive was how the Trappers played through adversity — especially after losing midfielder Robert George to a red card to begin the second half.
“When we played Western Nebraska and got a red card, the wheels fell off,” Rodrigues said. “Going to Laramie with all the hype, getting a red card and watching the team absolutely rising to the occasion, that showed an amazing amount of growth.”
After a sluggish first half, Rodrigues said the team regrouped at the break.
“I told them, ‘We’re carrying a lot of yellow cards, we have to play a little rope-a-dope,’” he said. “We have to let them feel like they’re winning so they gamble, and then we counter.”
With orders not to engage in any physical confrontation, Lobera re-entered the game as the Trappers began to press. The freshman from Cody scored shortly after and, with help from the bench, the Trappers were able to effectively manage the game, holding on for the win.
“Luis Diaz Menendez played a great ball between two defenders, and Daniel [Lobera] happened to shake the guy,” Rodrigues said of the goal. “He pinged the ball from about 20 yards out; the goalkeeper really had no chance. ... When the dominos fall your way, they fall your way.”
Keeper Luke Holt had another strong outing in net for the Trappers, recording his second straight shutout.
“Luke held it down for us at the very end,” Rodrigues said. “There was a very good shot taken, and had he not made the save that he did, we would have tied 1-1 probably, or maybe lost. This team exceeded expectations when everything was against them.”
Aaron Kovac and Ryan Tyrer had a strong game for the Trappers as well, but Rodrigues said his supporting cast really made the difference.
“I have to give it to the guys who all subbed in,” he said. “All the bench players played fantastic.”
The Trappers hosted Western Wyoming College Wednesday, and will have a week to get everyone back to full strength before welcoming Sheridan to town Sept. 27. Rodrigues said the team will work on maintaining the level of intensity they’ve shown these last few games as the season hits its midway point.
“We still have a long way to go,” Rodrigues said. “But against this team, we didn’t lose our wits, we stayed grounded. Again, it’s a character trait of this team: They’re humble, they are excited and they are young men, but they are learning to understand the dynamics of their emotions.”
“Winning is not everything,” the coach said. “But wanting to win? That’s massive.”