Led by a pair of goals from sophomore Sam Bauer and a tally apiece from freshman Hawkin Sweeney and sophomore Jesse Trotter, the Powell High School boys’ soccer team won its home opener. The squad beat Pinedale 4-1 at Panther Stadium on Friday.
The win against the Wranglers also marked the start of conference play for Powell, giving the Panthers a 1-0 record in the 3A West, 5-1 overall. They’ll host another conference opponent Thursday in cross-county rival Cody.
“We worked on some different attacking strategies during the week, and I was happy to see the team implement those on game day,” said PHS head coach Dave Gilliatt about his team’s win over Pinedale. “Sometimes you work on things and your players don’t quite grasp it right away; you need more practices to truly implement it. I was proud of them because they caught on to it quick. That was good.”
Sweeney got things started for the Panthers at the 15 minute mark, scoring on a well-placed Garrett Morris corner kick to give Powell an early 1-0 lead.
“The corner kick went off ... a couple of heads into traffic,” Gilliatt said. “Hawk [Sweeney] was in the right place at the right time, took it one touch off his knee and volleyed it in across the face of the goal into the opposite side of the net. Great goal, good technique.”
Trotter added to the Panthers’ lead 10 minutes later, finding the back of the net for his first goal of the season off an assist by Bauer.
“Jesse [Trotter] was on the right side of the field, trapped the ball, looked up and hit it with his left foot,” Gilliatt said, calling it a good shot.
“It’s taken him a little time to kind of settle in,” the coach said of Trotter. “He’s always had the ability to do that; I think he’s just felt a little rushed up until this game.”
Bauer got in on the action about a minute later, scoring his first goal of the contest off a nice assist by Steven Shopa, sending the Panthers into the half with a commanding 3-0 lead.
“[Shopa’s] pass kind of found its way through three Pinedale players; I don’t think Sam [Bauer] expected it to get to him,” Gilliatt said. “But that’s one of the things we’ve worked on, is making sure we’re seeing those through balls. Sam [Bauer] capitalized on that opportunity, going one-on-one with the keeper and got the goal.”
After making a few adjustments during halftime, the Panthers picked up where they left off to start the second. Bauer scored his second goal of the game at the 48-minute mark, off an assist by Wentz to push the lead to 4-0.
“Sam [Bauer] played the ball to the left side of the goal; the defender kind of held him up, so he cut back around and just chipped the keeper,” Gilliatt said. “It was a really nice goal. The quality of the goals this season for us have been really good. Goals no matter how we get them still count the same, and we’ll take them, but that was an impressive goal.”
For his part, Bauer called his two goals a “confidence boost,” but said the team needs to keep up the intensity with a big weekend of games coming up.
“So far, this season is going really well, but we can’t stop now,” he said. “We need to keep working and practicing to be ready for Cody and Douglas this week.”
Gilliatt said his defense once again rose to the occasion, led by a strong outing from Matthew Hobbs. The defense challenged for every ball in the air.
“We let too many balls bounce last weekend,” Gilliatt explained. “This time around, they contested and won the majority of goal kicks, which prevented a lot of attacks. That was one big improvement.”
Powell’s defense pitched a shutout until the 65th minute.
“Credit to Pinedale for fighting to the end to get that goal,” Gilliatt said. “And credit to them for even coming. With South Pass closed, they found a way to get here. I want to thank them for finding a way to make it. They played a great game; they’re a strong defensive side with physical players.”
Making his first start of the year at left wing, Cameron Wentz had a solid game for the Panthers, just missing on several scoring opportunities.
“He’s [Wentz] come off the bench a lot for us and has been playing well,” he said. “I’m a big believer in showing what you have at practice during the week; kids that show up during the week are the ones that deserve the playing time when it comes to game day, and Cameron has shown up. He has good control of his body, he makes good decisions, which is helpful.”
Next up for the Panthers is Thursday’s rivalry game against the 3-3 Cody Broncs at 5 p.m. at Panther Stadium. There’s rarely any love lost between these two teams, and Gilliatt said he expects a tough game against a talented team. The Broncs took the season sweep last year against the Panthers by identical 2-0 scores, though both contests were hard-fought.
“They have a lot of very talented players,” he said, adding, “We look forward to that challenge.”