Red Devils draw with SV on Senior Night

Red Devil sophomore Brooks Searle collides with Star Valley’s Brandon Beck during Wednesday’s 4-4 draw with the Braves at Kay Fackrell Stadium. The Red Devils honored their seniors at halftime of the game. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Renova tallies two goals; Liechty with eight saves

One week removed from a 4-0 road drubbing at the hands of Star Valley, the Evanston High School boys’ soccer team had a shot at redemption Wednesday, this time on their home pitch, and in front of a boisterous student section on Senior Night.

The Red Devils (1-8-4) were unable to come away with a win, but they did earn a measure of respect, battling the Braves (4-7-2) to a 4-4 overtime draw in their final home match of the season.

“Star Valley scored three of their goals on set pieces – as far as the run of play, we outdid them,” said EHS head coach Brian Richins. “The first goal they got was just an unfortunate hit – Troy [Ramirez] had his arm out, and they got the penalty kick. We didn’t contest well enough defensively on set pieces, at all. For everything we did right last night [Wednesday], that was our one glaring weakness – defending well in set pieces. I think it’s because we’re not very dangerous on set pieces, so we don’t think anyone else is, either.”

Star Valley’s Kayson Hadelie opened the scoring with a penalty kick in the game’s fifth minute, giving the Braves an early 1-0 lead. The Red Devils’ Jordan Mendez brought the game back to even at 1-1 in the 13th minute, though Star Valley scored once again off the foot of Will Garcia to take a 2-1 lead at the break. The Red Devils took time to honor their seniors at halftime.

“I’ve been awestruck by this group of seniors’ positivity,” Richins said. “The culture of our team this year, the camaraderie, the optimism, the unity – they take care of the underclassmen, and they’ve made it a great place to work. They’re hard-working, fun-loving, empathetic kids. And that’s what I’ll remember most about this group.”

The Braves extended their lead to 3-1 in the game’s 49th minute on a goal by freshman Kristoff Buehler.

“The frustrating thing about the game is I felt like we were in possession, going to goal, most of the night,” Richins said. “Probably 80 percent of the night. They had a few counter attacks that were really dangerous – that freshman kid of theirs, No. 20 [Kristoff Buehler], he’s dangerous. He scares the life out of me, every time.”

The rest of the second half was all Red Devils, as Ricky Renova scored his first of two goals on a penalty kick, and Troy Ramirez scored the equalizer in the game’s 74th minute, sending the match into overtime.

“We go into overtime, and again we’re on the front foot,” Richins explained. “Troy was able to cut that thing to his right foot and crack it in, and it was an amazing shot. But then they found a way to tie it up.”

In the first overtime period, Renova gave the Red Devils their first (and only) lead of the game, finding the back of the net in the 86th minute to make it 4-3.

With the Red Devils five minutes away from the upset in the second overtime half, the Braves brought the game back to even, and held on for the 4-4 draw.

“The thing that stood out to me in that game, is that I think every single guy had their best game [Wednesday] night,” Richins said. “I can’t look at a single player that went out on the field that didn’t play at their very best in that game. Every single kid who took the field did something better than they ever had before – as a coach, you can’t really ask more than that.”

Richins was quick to heap praise on his players by name – both starters and players who came off the bench – for their efforts.

“Jordan Mendez was dangerous, moving all around – he and Drew Barker and Brooks Searle weaved in and out of one another, and were super-unselfish trying to give each other open looks,” Richins said. “McKay Johnstone kept the ball in front of him and kept his positioning all night. Josh Godina was the same way. Troy Ramirez – we’ve been watching him strike balls like that in practice forever, just waiting for it to finally happen in a game. Finally, he nailed it – that was a screecher. Jayton Meyer was all over the place, he dominated in the back. Riley Kohler made plays that I haven’t seen him make before, and Caleb Welling was unbelievable. Colby Jones comes in and plays almost the whole match, and just played fantastic. Jaeger Liechty makes two or three one-on-one stops in net, his brother Dylan throws his body around – the list goes on and on. Every single guy had a highlight game, and that was amazing.”

The Red Devils travel to Casper this weekend to close out the regular season against undefeated Kelly Walsh (11-0) Friday, and Natrona County (3-7-2) Saturday.

“My guys felt like they should have won that [Star Valley] game,” Richins said. “When you know you’ve played your best game of the year – we’re not giving up hope at this point. We’re staying in the fight, we’re continuing to improve, we’re getting better every time we go out. We just have to keep going. The season’s not over. We’ve been gunning for that 11th of May since we knew that the snow was never going to go away, and we were stuck in the gym. The guys have kept the faith and just kept working. I don’t know if a team has had as much adversity as this team has had, but they hold together. I’m just so proud of them.”