SHERIDAN — Casper has state basketball and wrestling, Laramie has state football and Sheridan used to have state soccer.
The Sheridan High School soccer teams had homefield advantage during memorable state soccer runs the past three years, but everyone moves to Rock Springs for state this weekend.
The 2013 3A tournament is in Jackson, and the two events will have to share referees.
Beyond that shared change of scenery, the Broncs and Lady Broncs open Thursday with contrasting storylines.
For the boys: How far will we let ourselves go?
Broncs coach Kevin Rizer has preached throughout the season “when we play hard we are the best team in the state, and when we don’t…” he usually trails off, but Sheridan has seen what happens when they play too much defense and don’t put enough passes together out of the back to build attack.
See, three losses to Gillette in one season by one goal apiece.
At the same time, Sheridan has been within a few plays of just as easily winning three games against Gillette.
The Broncs have what it takes to make a deep run at this weekend’s state tournament in Rock Springs. An experienced back line that doesn’t allow many goals will be key in their potential success.
If their stout defense, speed up front and quality soccer in the middle can fuse together, there will be a couple of two-goal wins out there for Sheridan.
Senior defensemen Scott Passini, Collin Eisenman and Gunnar Edeen have all been here before. Last year’s heartbreaking 5-4 PK title game loss to Kelly Walsh will be easier to forget in the vastly different setting at Rock Springs Junior High School, void of the mountainous backdrop at the Big Horn Equestrian Center in 2012 that towered over what was a near-perfect season ending in the worst way.
Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the mid-60s and there will be plenty of wind with a slight chance of thunderstorms.
The Broncs midfield and attackers have shown they can drop the hammer, even if the 2013 goal count has been sporadic.
But that’s soccer.
Remember, Sheridan exploded for five goals in 20 minutes against Laramie April 19.
But they haven’t scored more than two goals in a game since then (if you subtract the game against Cheyenne South).
For the girls: How far can they go?
The Lady Broncs season has been one of marked improvement. They’ve turned early season shutout losses to Cheyenne Central and Laramie into near upsets at last weekend’s 4A East Regional. Sheridan overcame Gillette, eliminating them from state a week ago.
Sheridan’s girls have a similar formula to the boys — strong at the back — and that starts with senior leader and keeper Bailey McLean. Defenders Celena Kelly and Bailey Baker are among the few seniors who will be working to avenge last year’s 1-0 loss to Central in the 4A girls state championship game.
A team that has relied on evolving young players all spring, Sheridan will likely need a few goals from paced runs from Robbi Ryan, the Lady Broncs leading goal scorer, and from juniors Emily Julian and Maddy McClure.
Shoddy first touches and lacking possession have noticeably improved lately, giving the Lady Broncs the ability to control the run of play for large portions of the game. That was something they simply didn’t have back in early April.
The key this weekend for the Lady Broncs may be finding that final ball, which they’ve battled all season.
Sheridan, the No. 3 from the East, opens Thursday with Rock Springs at 11:30 a.m., the No. 4 from the West. It’s not hard to see them playing for a shot at a Gillette/Natrona winner in the state semis Friday.
For the girls, their opener may be a little tougher. No. 1 seed Green River holds a 15-2 record this season, and they get the Lady Broncs at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow.
If they can win, the Lady Broncs play the winner of Cheyenne East/Kelly Walsh in the semis.
For both teams, it will be a different scene with lessened expectations, but still the possibility of a blue and gold team playing late Saturday.