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Red Devils top Rawlins; face Rock Springs, Riverton

Posted: Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Tyler Stout heads the ball during the Red Devils’ win over Rawlins. Photos by Anna M. Kunz

EVANSTON — Both the Evanston Lady Red Devils and Red Devils soccer teams picked up non-conference victories on Tuesday, April 30, but the dispositions of the coaching staffs and related team vibes couldn’t have been much further apart.

The Red Devils gathered their second one-goal victory over the Rawlins Outlaws within the past five days, coupling a 3-2 win in Rawlins last Thursday, April 25, with a 2-1 home win high atop the football and soccer practice field.

The Lady Red Devils earned a quality 3-1 victory over the visiting Lady Braves of Star Valley at the Evanston Middle School field; the Lady Braves had been the top-ranked team in the 3A classification last week, before their main rival, Jackson, knocked them down a few pegs.

Since the Red Devils’ game was first, with a 3 p.m. start, that is where our soccer coverage will start. Coach Clint Chandler shouldered most of the blame for his team not beginning last week’s meeting with the Outlaws with the proper focus, mindset and emotion, with the coach concerned about risking injury or not having enough left in the tank for a big-time conference showdown with Green River the following day, and he believes his sentiment permeated his team.

The Red Devils have strung five consecutive wins together, which is almost assuredly the longest win-streak in Evanston’s 13-year soccer history. Five has theme implications, as that’s where the Evanston Red Devils are ranked — fifth in the most recent WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media poll. Three back-to-back 4A West Conference wins have been intermixed with the pair of conquests over Rawlins.

Those two conquests simply did not showcase the brand of soccer the Evanston Red Devils are capable of delivering. It’s not that Rawlins is a bad team. The Outlaws played right with some of the best in 3A, with wins and ties against quality soccer programs.

All teams are prone to have a letdown, though, and coaches get leery about their teams becoming too comfortable. Last week, the No.1 Gillette Camels were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten going into the season’s homestretch thanks to the No. 3, now No. 4, Cheyenne Central Indians. Sheridan is the new No.1, as the 5-0-1 Camels did not fare well in their Capital City 4A East Conference showdowns, coming away 5-1-2, experiencing another tie, ending in a 0-0 deadlock to Cheyenne East, before suffering their first setback to Central, 0-1.

Gillette and Laramie are deemed even in the collective minds of the pollsters, tied for second in the rankings, eliminating third place, pushing the Indians into fourth, with the Red Devils in fifth.

Things will be interesting, especially in the eastern side of the state, among those top-five teams at this weekend’s close to the regular season. No. 1 Sheridan travels to No. 2 Gillette.  The other No. 2, Laramie, hosts No. 4 Cheyenne Central.

The Red Devils coaching staff, in their postgame remarks, came from more of a worried perspective than one of disappointment. Upset, but not angry, driving home the message that an effort such as the coaching staff witnessed against Rawlins would not get it done against 4A Conference opponents. They cautioned their players not to let a good thing slip away, reaffirming their belief in the team with “you’re better than this,” declarations. This has been, but could be even more of a banner and benchmark year for Red Devils soccer, and the players, not holding their heads high, appeared to be receiving the message loudly and clearly.

The team is in control of its own destiny. A pair of road wins, at Rock Springs on Friday, May 3, and at Riverton, Saturday, May 4, would punch Evanston’s ticket to the state tournament, regardless of how they might fare hosting the regional tournament next weekend. Two wins, and the Red Devils can finish no worse than second place in the 4A West. As in other sports, teams finishing first and second in each conference receive automatic state berths, rewarded for their regular season play.

Evanston, 4-4 in the conference, lost to both the Tigers and the Wolverines by a combined score of 1-6 in Evanston, a 1-2 setback during which they had their chances, even late in the game on April 12, and the biggest scoreboard disparity of the season, 4-0, the following Saturday, by the Wolverines.

The 4-4-1 Tigers are riding some momentum, blanking their rival, the conference-leading Wolves of Green River, 2-0 on May 1. It was a nice turnaround after the 0-4 drubbing laid on the Tigers on April 29 by the 4-3-1 Wolverines. Five-and-four Green River travels to Riverton the day before Evanston, as the two Sweetwater County schools will end their season Friday, and the Casper schools, 3-6 Natrona County and 4-3-2 Kelly Walsh, a day earlier, on Thursday, May 2, leaving Evanston and Riverton left to play on Saturday. It’s very probable all eyes will be upon the Red Devils and Wolverines.

The landscape in both conferences could look much different with this weekend complete, but no matter the outcomes, resulting standings and regional tournament pairings, a team that gets hot and puts it all together at just the right time may not only elevate their status in the conference, but go on to win it all. The record shows this has been a year of parity in Wyoming 4A soccer, and nobody has likely seen the last of it.

Though Senior Day festivities have already been held, the Evanston Red Devils are fortunate to have another opportunity to play before the hometown crowd and authenticate their team identity. You’ll find “Senior Profiles” in this and the next few editions of the Herald to honor our graduating athletes.

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