The intensity of the battle between Evanston and Green River is written in the expression on senior Chase Bybee's face. Photo by Jenny Welling
EVANSTON — Past stories featured in the Uinta County Herald have highlighted a number of firsts achieved by the 2013 Evanston Red Devils soccer team. Coach Clint Chandler has prefaced these initial occurrences are firsts in his time as an assistant and head coach, encompassing the past five years, but most are believed to be program firsts.
The first wins ever against Natrona County and Kelly Walsh took place this season, as did the first consecutive conference wins. Third place in the conference standings is as high as Evanston has ever enjoyed, and this past Thursday and Friday brought additional moves into previously unchartered territory.
Evanston had never defeated the Wolves in Green River. That can now be checked off the list, as the Red Devils bested the Wolves 3-2 in overtime on Friday, April 26. That was preceded by a 3-2 non-conference road win over the 3A Outlaws in Rawlins the Thursday prior.
Is the four-game win streak the Red Devils are currently riding a program first, or best? There’s a strong possibility that is the case. Three consecutive conference wins has most assuredly never been accomplished, until this season. Chandler did believe the program had experienced an overall winning record, “back in the days when Tyler Cox was playing,” but it may have been fleeting, and that team did not qualify for state. That’s something this team appears poised to accomplish, and that would definitely be a first-time occurrence.
Chandler also acknowledged his predecessor, coach John Cox, scored a 6-0 victory over the Wolves, but didn’t specify if it was home or away. But in his tenure as a Cox assistant for one year, before taking the reins as the head coach, these are all at least Chandler-era firsts.
There was more significance to the win in Green River; it marked Evanston’s first win over a top-five ranked team, as the Wolves had just moved in to claim the fifth spot in the latest WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media poll.
Thursday, April 25
The last report on Red Devils soccer addressed Chandler’s apprehension about traveling to Rawlins for the non-conference game against the Outlaws, the day before a big conference showdown at Green River. The coach expressed concern over further injury, as mainstays Francisco Saabedra, Colton Welling and Ben Kunz had recently experienced the injury bug.
Chandler described Rawlins as a solid club, with a good deal of team speed, and shouldered most of the blame for his team’s slow start, explaining he had later regretted expressing to his team he was not in favor of the schedule change, with so much riding on the conference-clash with Green River.
“In retrospect, it wasn’t a good idea to express my concerns and ask for the team’s feedback,” Chandler shared, “because we didn’t enter that game with a positive mindset. And we came out and started that game as though we had bigger things to worry about.”
Evanston experienced another disadvantage, in playing on a field the coach believed to be 12 to 15 yards narrower than fields they’re accustomed to competing on.
Some unusual sidebars were a part of the game, since both teams had meaningful conference games on Friday. The teams had agreed to play the varsity squads in the first half, but to substitute underclassmen in the second half, making it more of a junior varsity match-up. But Evanston arrived with their junior varsity goalkeeper and only one junior, in Kaleb Kurete, as the rest of the junior class was expected to take part in promenade practice. Before play started, the Outlaws coach explained he had 13 ineligible players, so plans for the second half were scrapped.
The Red Devils did hold out Welling, “erring on the side of caution,” knowing the senior, battling back from injury, would be more of a benefit to his team against Green River, rather than risking re-aggravating the knee injury, along with Saabedra, who the coaching staff believed was still not at 100 percent healthwise.
In addition, with the score tied 2-2, with about 20 minutes remaining, the coaches reached accord that, should the 40 minutes of regulation end in a tie, it would remain as a tie, with no overtime to decide the outcome.
Devian Kurete scored the first Evanston goal on what his coach described as a spectacular open field free kick, estimated from 35 yards out, which “went around the wall, and under the arms of the goalie, a thing of beauty,” according to Chandler.
Hairoo Razo scored the second goal against the Outlaws. Razo then was credited with an assist, setting up Kurete to score again, with about three minutes remaining to make the tie consideration a moot point, and the Red Devils hung on for the 3-2 win, closer than what the coaching staff had anticipated.
The Outlaws will have another shot at the Red Devils today, April 30, in Evanston, as the Lady Outlaws and Outlaws of Rawlins and the Star Valley Lady Braves will travel here.
At Green River on Friday,
The Red Devils believed they let a home win against the Wolves slip away in a conference opening, 1-2 home loss on March 28, more victims of their own mistakes than being outplayed by Green River, according to the coaching staff’s comments, at the contest’s conclusion. The Red Devils committed a midfield foul and subsequently missed a mark on defense, which allowed a Wolves player a “header” goal to capture the game’s first advantage, up 1-0.
According to Chandler, Green River’s strategy was to clog the middle, “to prevent the one-two scoring punch of Kurete and Razo,” so Evanston countered by working to get the ball to the corners for scoring opportunities, and that counter-strategy paid off.
“The decision-making that Sam Richins showed was beyond what you’d expect from a sophomore,” Chandler stated of Richins’ first varsity goal of the year to tie the match, 1-1.
Richins was patient on the corner, anticipating over-pursuit by the Wolves defender, made a great move and then read the Green River goalkeeper perfectly, kicking to score rather than passing.
“He slotted it in on the far post,” Chandler elaborated.
The second half was a standstill, with neither team able to establish scoring opportunities through the first 10 minutes. The coach described a situation with all of his players deep on the Wolves’ end of the field, and Kurete’s knowledge of “when to turn and just rip it, and that’s just what he did,” Chandler recalled.
Kurete’s kick was described as having such velocity that it hit the Green River goalkeeper in the chest and spun him around sideways, before landing in the back of the net. The Red Devils recaptured the lead, 2-1, on Kurete’s rifled-shot.
Another stalemate ensued until Ben Kunz found himself on a corner, with a kick mirroring the score Richins had earlier. Fouled in the process, Kunz continued to play through, but his goal was nullified by the called foul, which would have resulted in a 3-1 Red Devils’ lead. Green River’s crowd got behind the Wolves, from Chandler’s account, who continued to attack, and set up a nice scoring opportunity to even the match at 2-2, following Evanston’s two unanswered goals.
Overtime is comprised of a pair of 10-minute halves, with neither team able to get into scoring position through the first OT period. The Wolves had played in four overtime games on the year, and Evanston had nary an extra period game. Chandler declared his team “dehydrated and exhausted,” and unaccustomed to playing in the warmest temperature conditions of the year, by far.
With about two minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Kurete got his head on a corner kick, and while Chandler reported that’s ordinarily the preferred strategy to score — a header from a corner kick — Kurete instead redirected the ball with his noggin to set up junior Miguel Echeverria with his first varsity goal ever, which proved to be the game-winner.
The coach also praised “a tremendous, diving save,” on behalf of Evanston goalkeeper Austin Pinter, securing the win from a Green River team, unfazed by the Evanston score, continuing to stay on the attack.
The coach expressed strong sentiments about his team’s gutsy performance against the fifth-ranked Wolves, first claiming to feel more relieved than gratified, once the final whistle sounded, but then transcending to “the greatest feeling I’ve ever had as a coach, regardless of what sports I’ve coached,” exalting over the desire and effort his team put forth.