Red Devils fall at home to KW, Natrona

Will honor seniors Thursday at home finale against SV

By Don Cogger, Herald Sports Editor
Posted 4/17/24

The Evanston High School boys’ soccer teams welcomed the Casper teams to Kay Fackrell Stadium over the weekend, and though the results weren’t what the Red Devils faithful were hoping …

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Red Devils fall at home to KW, Natrona

Will honor seniors Thursday at home finale against SV


The Evanston High School boys’ soccer teams welcomed the Casper teams to Kay Fackrell Stadium over the weekend, and though the results weren’t what the Red Devils faithful were hoping for, the matches were not without positives to build on.

Kelly Walsh – currently the top-ranked team in 4A after knocking off No. 1 Jackson the previous week – was first to town Friday afternoon, beating the Red Devils 5-0.

“I was really happy with the effort against Kelly Walsh,” said EHS head coach Brian Richins. “I thought we played really hard, and I thought we executed our game plan as well as we could. It was unfortunate the way the scoring ended up, because I really felt like it was a much tighter game.”

Evanston had a quick turnaround Saturday against Natrona County, shaking off a sluggish start to rally late, before falling 3-1.

“I asked a ton of those boys, and in the end, I feel like the exertion we gave to the Kelly Walsh game cost us a bit in the Natrona game,” Richins explained. “We were carrying some weight around against Natrona – just not moving as quickly, just not as engaged – and I think it was fatigue from the night before.”

The Red Devils host Star Valley Thursday for their final home match of the season; they’ll also honor their seniors prior to the contest.

“We have Star Valley on Thursday here, and that’s Senior Night – our last home match of the year, which seems odd,” Richins said. “Then we have Jackson Saturday, and at Rock Springs next Tuesday. So no back-to-backs, which is nice. We’ll have time to prep for both games this week, and the game plan for Jackson will be the same as we had for Kelly Walsh – try to catch lightning in a bottle, and the rest of the time, make it really hard for them to score.”


Kelly Walsh 5,

Red Devils 0

The Red Devils knew they’d have their hands full Friday with top-ranked Kelly Walsh (7-2, 6-0 in 4A West), though if Evanston was in the least bit intimidated, it didn’t show. The Red Devils played physical from the jump, and despite spotting the Trojans an early 2-0 lead, gave the visitors fits defensively.

“The first Kelly Walsh goal – man, what a bummer,” Richins said. “Jaeger makes the save, then it hits the crossbar and off his face and in. Just a heartbreaker. But there was a lot we took from it – we found the level of effort we’re going to have to put out in order to compete with that kind of team was there. So, overall, I think we took more positives than negatives from that.”

The Red Devils were able to create opportunities in the second half, though Kelly Walsh broke the match open late.

“Our goal was to try and make a couple of points off of them – if we could come up with a tie, we’d be feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Richins said. “For a while there, it looked like we might get that – Jordan [Mendez] had some breakouts, and I thought we were going to get a goal and tie that thing up. It looked promising, then that last 10-15 minutes, the game got away from us.”

“The thing about soccer is, it’s not unlike football – when you’re 3-and-out, 3-and-out, 3-and-out, your defense eventually wears down,” Richins added. “It’s similar in soccer – when you’re never passing the ball, receiving the ball, you’re constantly having to react – it just takes a lot out of you. We need to become a little better at keeping possession – making good, wise passes so that we’re not constantly chasing for 80 minutes. It’s too much.”

Asked what was working for the Red Devils against the top team in the state, Richins said he was pleased with how his team was able to move the ball through the Trojans’ back line.

“We were trying to play the ball forward quickly, and I thought we did a good job of that – we gave Jordan and Brooks some run-outs,” he said. “I honestly didn’t expect to have more than four or five shots on goal the whole match, just because I was asking the boys to stay back and defend so hard. I think we ended up with eight shots, so I was really happy with that.”


Natrona County 3,

Red Devils 1

Saturday’s contest against Natrona County (2-5-1, 2-4 in 4A West) featured a bit of everything: Slow starts, fast rebounds, penalty kicks and a red card on the opposing goalkeeper in the game’s closing minutes.

When the dust finally settled, the Mustangs left town with a 3-1 win, but they left knowing they’d been in a battle.

Natrona took a 2-0 lead into the break, thanks to goals by Rogan Potter and Kasen Sabus, coupled with a slow start by the Red Devils, who were still feeling the effects of an 80-minute sprint with Kelly Walsh less than 24 hours before.

“The difference was, we were playing a very defensive-minded game against Kelly Walsh,” Richins explained. “Going into Natrona, you could feel the impatience from our guys, and even from myself – we wanted to be on the attack. I don’t know that I had them as prepared for the Natrona game as I would have liked, but a credit to this group – we got in at half, diagnosed what was going on, made some adjustments and came out and played a different half. I continue to tip my hat to the guys for how well they take coaching.”

The Red Devils halved the score in the game’s 47th minute, when Natrona goalkeeper Zach Hawley got tangled up with forward Brooks Searle, awarding Evanston a penalty kick. Jordan Mendez buried the kick to cut the Trojans’ lead to 2-1.

“We got Brooks free, and he’s such a relentless player – he just bore down on that ball with all his might to catch it, and he was kind of out on the edge of the 18,” Richins explained. “The goalkeeper charged out – as he should – but Brooks was able to get there first, and got a little bit of a touch. The keeper came through his legs and took him down, so they called a penalty in the box.”

Hawley tried – unsuccessfully – to plead his case, to no avail.

“There was some discussion about whether the keeper had denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and had that been the case, it could have been a straight red card on the keeper right then,” Richins said. “But one of the Natrona defenders did a real hustle play and got below the keeper, kept that from happening. Credit for hustle all the way around, on both teams.”

If it was Hawley’s intention to receive a red card, he eventually got his wish. With three minutes to play in regulation, he again came out of the cage and made contact with Searle. The keeper’s reaction to the non-call earned him a red card, as well as a one-game suspension, where he’ll have some time to reevaluate his life choices.

“The whole thing turned into a teachable moment about maintaining your composure,” Richins explained. “We had a couple of guys losing their cool out there, as well, and credit to my leadership out there – Drew Barker and Jordan Mendez do a good job of reining people in and getting them back on track.”

With a change of keepers, Evanston had some momentum late, though that disappeared in the 76th minute, when the Mustangs were awarded a penalty shot. Jael Reyes booted the ball past Jaeger Liechty, and Natrona held on for the 3-1 win.

“It’s a shame it had to end the way it did – we had some things working for us late,” Richins said. “But we’ll have another opportunity against them to see what we can do.”