GILLETTE — There’s not much more frustrating for a Sheridan team than losing to Gillette.
Unless that loss comes with its share of controversy, and then it’s probably worse.
Sheridan led No. 1 Gillette 1-0 by way of a breakaway goal from Lucas Wollenman late into Friday’s contest, only to surrender two goals in a period of just eight minutes as time wound down to fall 2-1.
In the end, Broncs head coach Kevin Rizer wasn’t dwelling on two questionable calls that had an undeniable impact on his team’s loss in Gillette Friday night.
“The bottom line is you play 80 minutes you’ve got to play all 80 minutes,” he said. “Like I told our young men there after, you can’t cede 30, 40 minutes of play to your opponent and expect all of a sudden to gain momentum.”
The Camels had the Broncs on their heels for most of the contest, holding all but a few minutes of possession in the first half when Sheridan managed four shots and surrendered six corners. Goalkeeper Jess Edens was stout in goal and largely responsible for the scoreless tie at the break.
Sheridan’s one good chance in the first half was called back after the ball settled in the net despite a collision near the goal line between Nick Gill and Camels defender Jasen Scalzo. A pause by the center referee ended when he asked his assistant for help, and the play was ruled a hand ball in the box and a free kick to Gillette, when it seemed Camel defender had piled through the back of Gill as Gill hit home a cross from Daniel Sessions. Gill was pushed forward into the goal with his hands near the ball as it rolled across the line in front of him.
The crowds heckled, as each yelled their views on both sides, and the game continued 0-0 with 20 minutes left in the first half.
Minutes later, Bronc fullback Kameron Duncan cleared a ball right off the goal line that looked a sure Camel goal.
Joe Shassetz would get behind the Camel defense right before half only to hit his shot right at the keeper.
In the second half, Wollenman would finish his chance behind the back line. Like so many Bronc goals this season, stout defense at the back built into a speedy break for Wollenman, who calmly sliced the ball well out of reach of the Camel goalie.
“Even when we score a goal and take a 1-0 lead there, they feel like they can win because they’ve had the run of play,” Rizer said after the game. He had indeed urged his squad to get a second goal as they lined up to resume play.
Then Wollenman went down hard in a collision and left the game, and the Camels forward Alex Germann fired a hard shot from close range after running up the right flank of the Broncs defense. Edens bobbled the shot, moving backward toward the goal line, quickly gobbling it up and moving away from the goal to clear.
A whistle blew, and the ball was ruled to have gone over the line on Edens double-take by the assistant referee, 1-1. Both sides again were thrown into their respective emotions.
“We’ve got to control the things we can control,” Rizer said. “I won’t comment on officiating, we can’t control that.
“In the end, we had a 1-0 lead with eight minutes to play and gave it up. Questionable or not, we could have gotten a third goal in the game instead of them.”
Not five minutes later, Camel forward Blaine Christansen slotted home a hard low cross from Germann to give the Camels their 2-1 victory and keep their record unblemished.
While it was a clear point of debate Friday night, after the game, questioning heat-of-the-moment decisions is futile, and the Broncs walked away with class, perhaps not playing their best game of the season overall.
Sheridan trailed the Camels in offensive chances by a long shot; behind in shots on goal and in corner kicks to the Camels, whose first half possession win resulted in a game 15-5 shot advantage and a 8-2 corner kick advantage.
“We just continue to talk about the same things; it’s about process,” Rizer said. “I didn’t feel like we had much of the run of play in that game so we have to continue to get better.”
Sheridan will finish in the No. 4 spot in 4A East standings, and regional tournament seeding won’t be set until Monday after a make-up game between South and East is played. Regardless, as they prepare to play a loser-out game and try to qualify for state, Rizer sees his team as one that hasn’t yet reached its potential.
“I have faith in this team,” he said. “When they play like they did last weekend, they’re the best team in the state. When they don’t play, when the cede an entire half to an opponent, all bets are off, who knows what can happen. We’re going to talk about playing a full 80, and playing our tails off.”