Red Devils rebound from routs with back-to-back draws

The Red Devils soccer team celebrates a second-half goal Friday against Natrona in Rock Springs, en route to a 4-4 draw in overtime. Evanston will host Jackson Saturday. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

After suffering a pair of demoralizing defeats at the hands of conference foes Jackson and Kelly Walsh last week, the Evanston High School boys’ soccer team were able to right the ship somewhat against Natrona County on the road at Rock Springs and Riverton at home, earning draws in both matches.

Friday’s match against Natrona was technically a home game, but because of the condition of the field at Kay Fackrell Stadium, it was moved to Rock Springs. Down 3-1 late in the second half, the Red Devils rallied to tie the game at 3-3 and force overtime, eventually earning a 4-4 draw.

Evanston’s home field was finally ready to make its soccer debut on Tuesday against Riverton — or so we thought. A bizarre weather system blew through Uinta County during the JV game that ran the gamut of snow, rain, hail, thunder and lightning, eventually prompting the cancellation of the varsity contests. As Evanston players headed back to class and Riverton players headed home, the sun came out, the buses turned around and the Red Devils and Wolverines eventually battled to a 1-1 draw.

“It’s amazing how much different a tie can feel — when we tied Natrona, it felt like a win; when we tied Riverton, it almost felt like a loss,” said EHS head coach Brian Richins. “We were so much more dominant. But a tie is a tie, and we feel like we’re getting better, in all aspects of the game.”

Red Devils 4,

Natrona County 4, OT

Playing the final game of a three-game set against Natrona Friday, the Red Devils, were hoping to wash the taste of an 11-1 drubbing by Jackson and a 6-0 rout at the hands of Kelly Walsh out of their mouths.

“The Natrona game was especially heartwarming for me, because we had taken some pretty sound beatings the two games prior,’’ Richins explained. “You get behind against Natrona, and most teams would say, ‘Well, here we go again,’ and fold up. Our guys didn’t, so a lot of credit goes to them. It shows their heart and determination. To me, that was the most important thing to come out of that match – our resilience and relentless play.”

Evanston’s Ricky Renova scored the first goal of the game in the game’s seventh minute, giving the Red Devils an early 1-0 lead. Natrona answered with just under five minutes to play in the first half, and the half ended with the score knotted at 1-1.

The Mustangs charged out of the gate in the second half, scoring two goals in rapid succession to take a 3-1 lead.

In the last five minutes of regulation, the Red Devils scored twice — one goal from Renova on a penalty kick, and one from Dylan Liechty from 30 yards out in the final minute to force OT. Both teams scored in overtime, with Renova completing the hat trick on yet another penalty kick, and the game ended as a draw.

“What was working for us was our hustle — continuing to battle and get balls forward through the back line,” Richins said. “We got fouls that way, and were able to score on two penalty kicks, earned by two different players [Drew Barker and Brooks Searle], guys that have been coming off the bench. It shows some depth in our program, and our resolve.”

“Ricky got the hat trick, but he owes those two guys Uncrustables — Drew and Brooks earned those two goals for him,” Richins added, laughing. “Ricky had to put them away, but he got the opportunity because of those two.”

As for what the team still needs to work on, Richins said the answer is simple.

“We still have to get better defensively — we still gave up four goals,” Richins said. “We have to get in better defensive shape.”

Red Devils 1,

Riverton 1

What was supposed to be a celebration of the first soccer game at the newly-renovated Kay Fackrell Stadium turned into a battle with Mother Nature, as freakish weather kept both teams guessing as to whether the game would be played at all.

“We thought we were done — the kids had gone back to class, and I was just cleaning up some things,” Richins explained. “All of a sudden, the Riverton boys showed up, and we’re like, ‘OK, I guess we’re playing.’They had to do an announcement over the loudspeaker to get the kids out of class and back to the locker rooms.”

The Red Devils gave up an early goal, but were able to score the equalizer a short time later when junior Drew Barker scored the first-ever goal on the new field to make it a 1-1 game.

“Again, a testament to their resilience,” Richins said. “We were a little flat, gave up an early goal. But man, they flipped the switch and got going. I felt like it was a dominant performance. We earned another penalty kick, which we weren’t able to convert, unfortunately. We missed a couple of open nets. But we were definitely the attacking team, we were on the front foot. We really caused a lot of problems for Riverton. Their goalkeeper played well.”

The Red Devils are scheduled to host Jackson Saturday, and are looking to prove to the Broncs that the first outing isn’t indicative of what the home team is capable of.

“I think we’ll be a much different team this time around against Jackson, and I hope they’re shocked by what they see,” Richins said. “We were hoping to be a little more ceremonial about the first match on our new pitch, but with the weather, we were just lucky to be able to play a match. We’re excited to have Jackson on Saturday, it’s supposed to be a little nicer of a day, and we’ll be a little more ceremonial about the whole experience, and hopefully show a little growth, as well.”