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Three-goal second half powers East to win over South

Apr. 11—CHEYENNE — Cheyenne East junior Liam Taylor admitted that the Thunderbirds' boys soccer team may have taken Cheyenne South a bit lightly.

After a back-and-forth first half, Taylor and fellow captain Connor Kling helped fire up the team in the locker room to get back to how they wanted to play.

The message was received.

East dominated the second half, potting three goals in a span of just over eight minutes to run away with a 4-1 victory over the Bison.

"We had a mindset (to start the game) that wasn't what we preached," East coach Alex Stratton said. "That halftime speech was to get recentered and refocused."

Both teams made pushes at different points, but were only able to muster one goal each in the first half. East controlled the opening 20 minutes of play, besting the Bison 8-4 in shot attempts and 4-1 in shots on goal.

Taylor had a prime scoring opportunity just under four minutes into the half when the ball found him parked in front of the net, but his shot was handled by Aiden Mitchell.

In the 12th minute, Brenden Bohlmann was fouled in the box and drilled home the ensuing penalty kick to give East a 1-0 lead.

But South didn't go away quietly. Just past the 20-minute mark, Demarcus Contreras had an open look from about 25 yards out that went just wide of the net.

It proved to be the spark South needed. The Bison spent an overwhelming majority of the next 12 minutes in their attacking third, but were unable to get anything by Jaxon Miller.

That changed in the 32nd minute, when a handball gave Mario Rojas a penalty kick opportunity. The sophomore blasted a shot to the upper part of the net to even things up at one.

"Demarcus is like our fire starter," Bison coach Josh Eastman said. "The boys responded to his shot and his effort. He was winning almost every 50-50 ball, and in the first half, we were a through-the-line team. The boys were hustling to the ball in the end, and that's what gave us the edge."

Due to its message during halftime, East came out for the second half with a new fire. The T-Birds possessed the ball in the attacking third for all but a few seconds in the opening 20 minutes of play.

Despite heavy offensive pressure, South managed to hold the fort. But in the 65th minute, it finally broke. Santiago Ramirez-Munoz squeaked a shot past Mitchell to get East back in front.

After hitting a post and being robbed, Taylor received a pass off a free kick from Armando Hernandez and found himself one on one with Mitchell. This time, Taylor made no mistake and beat Mitchell clean to put East up by a pair of goals. He added one more in the 73rd on a similar pass from Kling.

"I just didn't want to let my team down," Taylor said. "... After that first shot, I was in a bad state of mind, but then my whole team just put me back in the game, and I was able to put two away."

Stratton felt that while some of the early woes were uncharacteristic of his team, they were also a victim of some bad luck with the ball. In spite of luck not being on their side, Stratton said it always felt like it was just a matter of time before shots started going in.

"We had a lot of good chances in the first half with the wind," he said. "I think Brenden had probably had three or four (opportunities) that he should have scored. My message during the first half was to just stay consistent and stay the course, and those unlucky plays will eventually fall our way."

Despite the game getting away from them in the end, the Bison managed to hang around for the first hour of play.

"The boys played fantastic for about 60 minutes there," Eastman said. "Our best defender gets blasted in the face, and we had to take him out of the game, and (that really discombobulated us). We weren't able to gain our composure and make those pieces work."

Both teams will be back in action on Friday. East will travel to Laramie. South will face Cheyenne Central at Riske Field.

EAST 4, SOUTH 1

Halftime: Tied 1-1.

Goals: East, Bohlmann (penalty kick) 12, South, Rojas (penalty kick), 32, East, Ramirez-Muno (unassisted), 65, East, Taylor (Hernandez), 69, East, Taylor (Kling), 72.

Shots: East 23, South 9. Shots on goal: East 13, South 4. Saves: East 3 (Miller), South 9 (Mitchell).

Corner kicks: East 8, South 5. Offsides: East 4, South 0. Fouls: East 4, South 5. Yellow cards: South 1 (Rojas, 44), East 0.

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