SHERIDAN — A late penalty kick by midfielder Lucas Wollenman was enough to earn Sheridan a 1-0 home win Friday against the Cheyenne East Thunderbirds in a game that was marked by rainy conditions and few real scoring opportunities for either team.
Slick turf made it difficult for players to string together passes in addition to restricting most of the play to the middle third of the park.
Still, both sides managed to threaten goal on several occasions, usually by playing skipping balls into space on fast-paced counterattacks.
Sheridan started the game with a flat back line of four defenders and had difficulty building many threatening attacks out of their defensive zone.
East kept the Broncs on their toes, forcing goalkeeper Jess Edens to make two saves in the first 10 minutes of play.
Sheridan’s first real opportunity came in the 13th minute when forward Colter Carzoli was fouled just outside the penalty area. Mateus Segura swung the ensuing free kick across the mouth of the goal, but the subsequent attempt at finishing was deflected by an East defender.
Several minutes later, East’s Joe Dobson struck a powerful shot from distance, but Edens once again proved up to the challenge.
With 14 minutes to play in the first half, Edens made two more quick saves to keep East off the board.
Still struggling offensively, Sheridan failed to threaten on the attacking side of the ball.
The Broncs’ best chance of the half came with 12 minutes remaining when forward Patrick McClurg struck the far post on a low shot that skipped past a sprawling East goalkeeper.
The final 10 minutes of the half saw little action for either team as the ball remained mired largely in the midfield.
Sheridan looked like a new group to start the second half, however, displaying far more intensity on the attack.
Still, the team failed to put many shots on target.
Seven minutes into the half, Broncs midfielder Reed Ritterbusch ran onto a streaking ball on the left side of the field before swinging in a low cross, but East defenders managed to clear the pass before any Sheridan attackers could connect.
Later, Broncs forward Segura collected a ball in space and found himself alone in front of goal, but the shot skipped off his foot and trickled into the arms of the East goalkeeper for an easy save.
The Broncs experienced several other similar chances in which the slick conditions made for weak shots from awkward angles.
With three minutes left in the match, confusion in the penalty area led to a penalty kick that was calmly slotted into the bottom left corner by Wollenman.
The game looked to be settled in favor of Sheridan.
However, a header one minute later by East player Trenton Curtis sailed just wide of the goalmouth, drawing a collective gasp from the bleachers.
Despite the difficult conditions, Broncs goalkeeper Edens said the team’s second half performance was strong enough that Sheridan deserved the win.
“We really stepped it up,” he said. “We started to play and get more aggressive.”
Both Edens and Broncs head coach Kevin Rizer said that while the wet conditions created difficulties in creating scoring opportunities, Sheridan earned the win with their solid play in the second half.
“I don’t know about the PK, but I think the score line is very justified,” Rizer said.
The Broncs return to the field Saturday for a midday match up against Cheyenne Central — a team Rizer counts among the best in the state.
He said his young team will be forced to play with intensity if it expects to come away with another result.
“I feel like we’re going to have a battle,” he said.