CHEYENNE – It took Cheyenne East most of the first half to find its offense.
The Thunderbirds made the most of their scoring chances once they did, notching a pair of first-half goals during a 2-0 victory over visiting Sheridan on Saturday afternoon at Okie Blanchard Stadium.
“A lot of times, there’s a feeling out process where both teams are trying to get a sense for how the game is going to go,” East coach Ryan Cameron said. “Sheridan played a lot different this time than they did the last time we played them. We had to figure out what they were doing.
“We did a good job of trying to possess, getting the ball wide and finding our target player.”
The teams traded possessions between the penalty areas early on.
Sheridan got the first quality opportunity on senior Carter Wells’ direct kick in the 16th minute. Wells’ shot rebounded off T-Birds senior goalkeeper Thomas Watson and to a Sheridan player, who kicked the ball across the mouth of the goal where another Bronc kicked it off the crossbar.
East (5-4-1 overall, 5-4-1 Class 4A East Conference) showed offensive life right after dodging that bullet. It had runs where the pass was just off, or the defense regrouped in time to force a bad shot.
Junior forward Nolan Gerdes sprinted toward the goal after passing to classmate Carter Rich in the center of the field. Rich played a through-ball that Gerdes collected in stride and struck past Sheridan keeper Sam Salyards in the 18th minute.
“They did a great of job doing exactly what we asked them when they played it back in and then back through,” Cameron said. “If we were to draw up how we wanted to play, that would be it.”
East kept the pressure on during the first half. Eight of its 12 shots and four of its five shots on goal came during the opening 40 minutes.
The T-Birds’ final tally came in the 32nd when sophomore Isaac Rich dribbled into the penalty area, turned near the end line and crossed a pass across the goal right to senior Isaiah Tapia, who was rushing in near the left upright. Tapia converted easily for a 2-0 edge.
“Coach always says to make a quick counter,” Tapia said. “If the other team messes up, or if we get the ball, we have to counter instantly. (Rich) carried the ball down line as soon as he got it, and we had five guy crashing towards the goal.
“We had a lot of guys working hard, I just happened to be the guy who got my foot on it.”
East held Sheridan (5-7, 3-7) to just eight shots (three on goal). Only two of those shots came during the second half.
“That was as good of a defensive performance as I have seen from us in a long time,” Cameron said. “We kind of stopped attacking in the second half. We kind of sat back on our heels and defended, and that’s hard to do.
“Those guys in the back did a really good job of keeping our shape, deciding when to step and winning the ball off the pass. They deserve a lot of credit.”
The key to the defensive effort was staying calm, senior Taigen Freeman said.
“We were patient and played together, we also did a very good job of opening up opportunities to make connecting passes so we could go forward,” he said.
EAST 2, SHERIDAN 0
Goals: East, Gerdes (C. Rich), 18. East, Tapia (I. Rich), 32.
Shots: Sheridan 8, East 12. Shots on goal: Sheridan 3, East 5. Saves: Sheridan 3 (Salyards); East 3 (Watson).
Corner kicks: Sheridan 4, East 4. Offsides: Sheridan 1, East 0. Fouls: Sheridan 8, East 10. Yellow cards: East 1 (C. Rich, 80).