East, Central draw after eventful closing 10 minutes

Apr. 18—CHEYENNE — Cheyenne East and Cheyenne Central combined for three goals in a span of six-and-a-half minutes to close Wednesday night's conference matchup with a 2-2 draw.

East senior Jordan Griess potted both of the T-Birds goals during that span, but a late marker by Central's Ekenna Little helped keep East from coming away with the win.

"I was impressed with the kids' fight and grit," East coach Rebecca Valdez said. "That's kind of what we had been hoping for, for awhile. It's exciting to see that side of their game."

Central got on the board first late in the first half. After the Indians were awarded a free kick off an East foul, Ava Newton corralled a loose ball and found Carmen Tafoya parked just outside the goal area.

Tafoya made no mistake, blasting a shot just over the outstretched fingertips of East senior keeper Aryana Booth for the 1-0 lead, which carried into the halftime break.

The opportunity for Tafoya came mere minutes after East failed to convert on a bang-bang play right in front of the net. The attempt was East's lone shot on goal in the opening 40 minutes.

"I'm happy with this team tonight," Central coach Kay Olivas said. "I'm liking what I'm seeing, and we are going to continue to improve."

Central's defense continued to stymie East deep into the second half. The T-Birds struggled throughout the opening 70 minutes to get on the same page, missing badly on a multitude of different passes.

"We had some miscommunication on the set pieces, and that's something we need to work on," Valdez said. "In that final third, that fight for the ball wasn't there. We just had some miscommunication and didn't have that hunger that we saw in the last 10 minutes."

That changed with 10 minutes, 33 seconds left in the match. A through-ball from Ava Walsh found Griess between two defenders. She corralled the ball and fired it passed the outstretched hands of Central's Jenna Feldmann to tie the game at one.

Despite the tally from East, Central didn't go away. With just over seven minutes to play, a loose ball right at the net found senior captain Ekenna Little, who punched in the ball from mere inches away to restore Central's lead.

But Griess was determined to not end her final regular-season outing against Central with a loss. Just under three minutes later, Griess once again answered to tie the game at two.

"I looked at the girls and said, 'We're going, we're not just going to lay down,'" Griess said. "We were going to fight to the last minute, and I didn't care what it took.

"...Looking at the girls and that they are willing to fight, it gives us courage for our next game knowing that, no matter what results we have and don't have, that we will be able to fight. That's really big for us."

Neither team was able to break the final stalemate, despite a few good chances on both sides. While she would of preferred the team come away with the win, Valdez was happy with the way the team played over the final 10 minutes.

"Sometimes, you need those," the coach said. "It helps playing a crosstown rival to get that grit and fight. Hopefully, we can build on that go into the next game starting on that step instead of step zero again."

Olivas also was pleased with her team's outing. While the win slipped through its grasp, Central controlled the game on the defensive end throughout the contest. The coach was also pleased with her team's ability to take another positive step in the right direction.

"Something that we always harp on is the mental side, and these girls are starting to show a lot more," Olivas said. "I'm very pleased with how they are performing in practices and translating it into games."


Halftime: Central 1-0.

Goals: Central, Tafoya (A. Newton), 35, East, Griess (Walsh), 70, Central, Little (unassisted), 73, East, Griess (Williams), 76.

Shots: East 8, Central 7. Shots on goal: East 6, Central 5. Saves: East 3 (Booth); Central 4 (Feldmann).

Corner kicks: East 2, Central 1. Offsides: East 1, Central 0. Fouls: East 2, Central 4.

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Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @MattAtencio5.