The Powell High School boys’ soccer team’s season ended Friday with a 5-2 loss to Douglas.
“I think they really did play one heck of a game and skill-wise I think we outplayed Douglas, we just didn’t outscore them,” said PHS head coach Jeff Dent, adding, “Once I got over the shock of losing, I really started looking at what the athletes were doing and they were playing good, they had stepped up and were attacking the ball, getting to the ball.”
The Panthers started the state play-in game in Worland a little slow.
“The passes weren’t getting to each other and we weren’t able to get to the ball like we should be,” Dent said, adding that a couple errors led to some Douglas goals and “brought the athletes down mentally.”
The Bearcats scored three goals in the first half, with the first coming off a kick at the far left corner — just out of reach of the goalie — right at the start of the game.
“But then they picked up and really started playing hard and were really hungry to win and you could see it out there and they were tenacious if you will, they were really striving to score,” coach Dent said of his squad. “So getting later in the first half, it got to the point where the ball wasn’t even coming back across the 50-yard line, we were keeping it on Douglas’s end a majority of the time, if not 90 percent of the time.”
In the first half, Powell took 20 shots on goal, but only one made it to the back of the net to make the halftime score 3-1.
“We just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net,” the coach said of the season-long nemesis. “But the boys were taking the shots, they were passing the ball, they were playing the soccer that .., the coaching staff and I have worked hard this year to get them to step up to.”
Coach Dent said the Powell boys finished the first half well and came out strong in the second.
“They knew they had to do something, so they came out there ready to fight and they fought well,” said coach Dent.
Powell scored the first goal of the second half to pull within a single goal, 3-2.
The Panthers played with a head wind in the second half of the game, making shots tougher, and they wound up with only six shots on goal in the period.
“I saw a lot of very good playing on our part and it was just painful to not get the ball in the net like we’ve been trying to do for the last couple weeks,” said coach Dent. “We’ve been really working on that that; it just never came to fruition on the field when we were playing another team and so that is something that falls on my shoulders as a coach.”
Douglas scored two more goals later in the second half to make the final score 5-2.
The game was a physical game with both teams fighting to continue their season and several fouls called on both sides.
“The reffing staff did a great job; they kept a great hand on that game,” said coach Dent, crediting the crew from keeping it from getting out of control and staying “a good solid soccer game.”
Coach Dent felt his athletes — including Panthers on the bench — were ready to play and ready to make things happen.
Substitutes were jumping off the bench when their name was called and running to the sideline to take the place of a tired teammate.
As for the overall season, “I’m a little saddened because of the talent that we had on that team, I really wanted to get them through state,” coach Dent said, saying it reflects on him as a coach.
“I had excellent athletes,” he said.
The coach added that he has “a great bunch of underclassmen coming up.” With a system now in place, Dent thinks the team can make some smaller changes — he already has some ideas — and “get into a game that is really going be impressive, enjoyable, high quality control and scoring.”
Coach Dent said he is looking forward to the incoming freshman class saying “the future is really looking good.”
His first year as head coach was “a learning experience,” and he thanked his coaching staff.
“I learned from them,” Dent said.
This year’s team featured eight seniors.
“The seniors that are leaving are really good players, and good young men,” Dent said. “I was very proud to work with them.”
He called them all “amazing and skillful and intelligent.”
Senior Shattuck Swenson came back from an injury, and as soon as he was cleared to play, “he was on the field,” coach Dent said. “He was a leader on the team, just right there. It was great having him.”
Seniors Brian Crawford and Garrett Vezain joined the Powell team from Rocky Mountain High School.
Coach Dent said both young men are competitive and play a lot of other sports.
“They were leaders on our team and were guys younger classmen were looking up to,” he said.
This season was seniors Joe Kuntz’s second year of playing soccer and Eddie Mendoza’s first.
“It was amazing having both those two, because they both picked up on the things I wanted them to learn and were ready to learn more all the time — just very hungry for soccer,” Dent said. “Very impressive young men.”
Finally, the Panthers will also say goodbye to Garrett Stutzman, Marshal Whittick and Owen Dent, who have played a lot of years of soccer.
“I was very very happy with how they came together and led in practices and the warm-ups and right into the games,” coach Dent said. “They were right there being leaders, also with the other captains and seniors, and were all just young men that the underclassmen could look up to, be impressed with and want to be like when they want to be seniors.”
With the 2016-17 PHS boys soccer season now concluded, coach Dent thanked the administration — Tim Wormald, Vicki Walsh and Sue Skalsky — for all of their help, his wife, Bev, for being understanding and patient, Wendi Robirds at Vision West and the Powell Athletic Roundtable for helping purchase team bags, which the team had been without for a long time.
“I think it brought the pride for our team up,” said coach Dent of having the bags this season.
“It’s been a great year, I am very thankful I had the opportunity,” said coach Dent. He said he hopes for continued improvement in the future of PHS Panther soccer.