SHERIDAN — There’s no soft competition to start this soccer season.
The Sheridan Broncs open their 2013 campaign with a weekend full of good opponents. Friday night, they’ll play Riverton, followed by a marquee weekend matchup Saturday when the 2012 runner-up gets a rematch with the champ. Sheridan will play in a jamboree in Casper where they will see 4A West teams including Kelly Walsh. Kelly Walsh beat Sheridan in penalty kicks (5-4) in last May’s title game.
While a large part of that heartbreak left with last year’s senior class, the early competition serves as a litmus test for last year’s role players that the Broncs will rely on this year.
“We’ll see this weekend when we play the four best on the other side (4A West),” head coach Kevin Rizer said of the transition. “In a lot of the ways, a lot of the kids that are going to see a lot of minutes this year have seen a few minutes the last couple years because we sub so much compared to everyone else in the state. Guys like Collin (Eisenman), who didn’t start, played 10 minutes per game, so he’s used to at least a little bit. I think that will help us.”
Large numbers in SHS soccer have produced a smoother transition over the past couple of years. Successful junior varsity programs help the jump to varsity. Starting out, Rizer said that their strengths will be found in their back four on defense, an all-senior group.
“They’re going to be very good,” he said. “Our midfield, they’re young but they’re good. I think we have a great keeper battle going right now, so we’re OK there. Defensive is our strength, but we have some midfielders with a little bit of experience, I’m feeling pretty good about that.”
As for this weekend’s competition, it’s a new way of starting for Sheridan soccer that usually opens at a jamboree in Worland. Rizer said they wanted to see teams that they’d see at state and that wasn’t the case in Worland.
“We play Riverton who we saw at state last year,” Rizer said. “Then we play Kelly Walsh, who we lost to in PK shootout in the championship game. We play Natrona, who didn’t make it to state last year, but they’re going to be pretty good, they’re young. And then Rock Springs who we played in the first round of state last year. That’s exactly what we tried to do, we tried to pick competitive teams.”
While key pieces of the Broncs’ offensive attack departed, plenty of familiar faces return. On top of that, Rizer emphasized that Sheridan soccer has become a program that believes and expects to win, which helps any transition.
“I want to see us play and battle,” he said. “Riverton’s going to be, I think, pretty good. Riverton was real young last year, we beat them 1-0 there in the first game of the season and then barely squeaked one out in the playoffs semifinal. They didn’t really threaten us a whole lot, but they were good defensively, very solid. So I think they’re going to be good.
“I want to see our boys battle,” he continued. “Everyone thinks of us as kind of being under the radar a little bit because we lost such a huge class, and so I want to see these younger guys now it’s their turn. Our motto this year is ‘carry the torch,’ it got handed off to you what are you going to do with it?”
Sheridan plays Riverton at 6 p.m. Friday after the junior varsity game at 4 p.m., both at Homer Scott Field.