Red Devils drop road match to Rock Springs, 3-1

Red Devil keeper Jaeger Liechty — seen here during a game against Rock Springs last season — had a solid outing against the Tigers last Friday, finishing with 15 saves in a 3-1 loss. (HERALD FILE PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Godina scores lone goal for EHS; Liechty solid in net

The Evanston High School boys’ soccer team was able to sneak in a full match against Rock Springs last Friday, prior to the winter storm that swept across the state a couple of days later, falling on the road to the Tigers 3-1.

The Red Devils held an early 1-0 lead but were unable to capitalize on subsequent scoring opportunities, falling to 1-2-1 on the season, 0-1 in conference play.

“We got an early goal, which obviously was a benefit, and something we’ve been focusing on this season — getting ourselves ahead early,” said EHS head coach Brian Richins. “This year’s team, our mentality is a little different — we’ve been predominantly a defensive team most of the time that I’ve coached here. But we feel like we have the athletes and the speed to be a little bit more on the front foot.”

Evanston opened the scoring in the game’s 13th minute, after a Red Devils’ corner kick was redirected out to about the 20-yard line and on to the foot of Josh Godina, who booted it in for the score.

“We’re trying to put a little higher pressure up the field, and it paid off — we worked ourselves into a corner kick situation, and the ball trickled out to Josh Godina, and he was confident and shot,” Richins said. “It deflected off someone in the box, and found its way into the net. It was a real positive start for us.”

Rock Springs brought the match back to even with just under 25 minutes to play in the first half, when the Tigers’ Dante Moreno converted on a penalty kick to make it 1-1. Both teams would continue to create chances, though the score was still 1-1 at the break.

“Throughout the game, we found the ball through the back line a significant number of times,” Richins explained. “We just really struggled to connect meaningful passes through our midfield. We’re playing above our training — we haven’t really set up with 11 guys on a field and practiced connecting through the midfield, except for maybe an hour and a half. There’s a lot that goes on in the midfield during the course of a game, and it’s hard to replicate that when you can’t practice outside.”

Rock Springs scored twice more in the second half to earn the win. Despite the loss, Richins was pleased with the team’s effort on the road.

“I really like the way our back line played against Rock Springs — I thought we had good positioning throughout most of the game,” he said. “Our two center backs — Riley Kohler and Jayton Meyers — I thought were the stars of the show, they were all over the place. And our goalkeeper — Jaeger Liechty — played really well, he had a great game. I think we recorded 15 saves for him, which is significant. A couple got through, but those were tough shots. When the shots were able to be stopped, he was stopping them. I thought those were some real bright spots for us.”

As for what the team needs to work on when matches finally resume, Richins said connections will be key.

“We have to connect better — we have to connect easy passes,” he said. “We have to find the open guy. Those are things that aren’t surprising to us — we haven’t had a chance to work on it outside very much. But we didn’t pass the ball effectively, and we’re not defending like I know we can. We’ve been working all season on being relentless — showing a relentless spirit. We did a really good job of that, but we need to find a way to work a little smarter — not harder — defensively.”

Asked what’s coming up next for the Red Devils, Richins said it’s anyone’s guess.

“It’s hard to say,” he said, chuckling. “We were supposed to have played Riverton in Green River on Tuesday, and we saw how that turned out. Our next scheduled match is against Kelly Walsh next Thursday and Friday against Natrona, both here, which I have a hard time believing is still going to happen, though the forecast looks promising. I shouldn’t discredit Boyd [Child] — he may pull a miracle and get it cleared.”

With the adversity the Red Devils have faced this season when it comes to weather, Richins said he’s proud of the way the team continues to keep a positive attitude, on and off the pitch.

“I’m just continually impressed by the unbelievable attitude of these kids,” Richins said. “The attitude and the work ethic they have — it’s fantastic. It’s surprising, even to me, and I’ve known most of them for years. This group of seniors is a group that lost their freshman year to COVID, yet a handful of them did every single online training that I sent out during the COVID break. Now as seniors, they’re faced with a record-setting snow year. They’ve had to battle through a lot of adversity, and you can see in them a never-give-up attitude. It’s just amazing how they are approaching this. It’s inspiring.”