EVANSTON — With more than 50 athletes coming out for high school soccer this season, coupled with the successfully growing summer season teams like the Evanston Express, Red Devil soccer is a program on the rise. Like Lady Red Devil soccer, the boys’ team did not have the opportunity to compete on what was scheduled to be the opening weekend, March 15 and 16, as the matches for the Casper Jamboree were canceled due to weather condiitions. While most teams were able to compete during the first weekend of the season, or pick up games during the week that followed, Evanston jumped right into conference matches with Kelly Walsh and Natrona County to begin the 2019 campaign.
“We tried to rearrange the schedule with the Casper schools following the cancellation of the jamboree, but were unable to do so. We would have liked some time on the field before jumping right into conference competition, “ Red Devil soccer head coach Brian Richins told the Herald.
Again, just like the Lady Red Devil soccer program, the Red Devils’ practice sessions have all been staged in a gymnasium setting because of the vast amounts of snowfall on both the practice field and the Evanston Middle School field on which they play, not to mention the cold temperatures.
The Red Devils lost four seniors from last year’s squad, but return a team steeped in varsity experience from seasons past. Returning lettermen include Tyus Cornia, Pablo Escalante, Bradshaw Haack, Weston Wiley, Carter Garfias and Andrik Cortez, though a few of the returning seniors are playing new positions. Angel Rodriguez is a first-year senior and Julian Beltran is a transfer student from Mexico, who is learning the ways of Wyoming soccer, according to his coach.
“We’re pretty senior heavy and we need that this season with our lack of field time,” Richins affirmed. “We need guys with experience to show the way,” the coach added.
Cornia, Haack and Wiley were named team captains for this season at last season’s awards banquet.
Despite having a wealth of returning experience in the form of seniors, the youth movement in Red Devil soccer is really beginning to blossom. The sheer number of soccer athletes who comprise the program as underclassmen, coupled with the success of club season teams like the Evanston Express, have awarded the program with opportunities which were not possible in years past. One of those took place this past weekend when Richins opted to take a varsity and junior varsity squad to Casper for the conference showdowns, while sending another team he termed “varsity two” to compete in a jamboree format in Worland. The main objective was to get his athletes more time on an actual field instead of a gym floor.
“We put together a team of mostly underclassmen who have played together since they were eight years old, and whom I have coached in Evanston Express, to compete in a varsity jamboree in Worland. They played very well and went 2-2. They competed against Green River’s varsity and got beat 6-2, but they scored two goals. They scored a total of 10 goals including penalty shots, and six of those goals were assisted” Richins said.
The regular varsity squad did not fare as well, falling to Kelly Walsh in the season opener, 9-1, on Friday, March 22, and dropping a 1-0 decision to Natrona County on Saturday, March 23.
“We got beat up pretty good on Friday,” Richins stated. “We lacked the organization to keep them in check and Kelly Walsh is a very good team. They looked precise and fundamentally sound at this stage of the season and we did not,” the coach elaborated.
“I felt bad for not having us properly prepared,” Richins added, before accentuating a positive spin on the first weekend of competition.
“They say a team learns the most about itself between its first and second games, and that was definitely the case for us. We played much better in our second game against Natrona, even though it was back-to-back in the span of 12 hours,” the coach avowed.
Richins also alluded to the fact that Garfias had picked up two yellow flags in the last game of the season at the regional tournament in 2018. Two yellow flags equate to a red flag, and the penalty handed down for a red flag violation is a one-game suspension for the next varsity competition, which just happened to coincide with Evanston’s first game this season against the Trojans. Richins was pleased to have Garfias back in the lineup against Natrona County, and commended his senior for his effort and the way he played.
This was the first season Red Devil soccer has opted to begin the season with two-a-day workouts for the first two weeks of the season and Richins is certain that doing so will serve his team well and pay dividends throughout the course of the season.
“The club season competition is currently helping our varsity team, but where it’s really starting to shine is with our youth movement. The future of Evanston soccer looks very bright. We have a lot we can be proud of right now,” Richins said.
“We’re going to be competitive and our varsity team goal to make it to state this year is intact,” Richins added.
Richins’ staff from last year is also intact, as both assistant coaches, Cody Seale and Ben Gilmore, are on board again this season.
There will be on-going competitions for starting positions during practice this season. Richins pointed to his goal-keepers as an example, noting he planned on utilizing both junior Latham Chandler and sophomore Rylan Worley, had Evanston had the opportunity to play in the canceled Casper Jamboree. While ulimately being unsuccessful in attempting to rearrage the conference games with the two Casper schools from this past weekend, the coach did find a spot for his team in Worland, believing the games with Kelly Walsh and Natrona could be played at a later date, at the time. Richins decided to go with Chandler for the Casper matchups, but is steadfast in his desire to give Worley some playing time with the varsity, rather than splitting the two keepers for the respective contests in Casper and Worland.
The varsity two team, by the way, was defeated by Torrington, 4-0, downed Pinedale, 5-3, defeated Douglas, 1-0, and as previously mentioned, lost to Green River’s varsity, 6-2, but the coach was pleased with his teams’ performance for the weekend.
“Our team of mostly underclassmen competed very well this weekend against varsity squads,” Richins said.
“Many of those kids will be contributors to our varsity program this season. The fact that we were spread all over the state this weekend may have hurt us somewhat, in terms of team depth, but getting our kids the opportunity to play on grass was the most important factor,” Richins declared.
Red Devil soccer will not be in action this weekend, but will play a pair of games during the spring break week at EHS. Evanston will travel to Rock Springs on April 2, and to Green River on April 5.