The regular season came to a close this weekend for the Broncs soccer squad, which split its final matches.
Worland 3, Cody 1
On their senior day, the Broncs wanted a little redemption when Worland came to town. The top-ranked Warriors had dealt the Broncs one of their worst losses of the season when the two teams had last met, and though there was a chance at an upset, Worland went back to the bus with its undefeated season intact, winning 3-1.
“I think we showed up and played nice and physical,” coach Randy Rockey said. “Last time we played Worland, we were kind of sleepwalking at the start of the game, but this time we were ready to go.”
The Warriors (14-0, 12-0 3A West) started the scoring early, dropping in a goal in the sixth minute. It looked for a moment as though they would run away with the game from there, but the Broncs defense held firm for the rest of the half in a tough, physical game that saw plenty of penalties on both sides.
Senior goalie Ian Balyo faced tough test after tough test from the Warriors. In the 15th minute, he dove in front of a Worland boot to corral a ball that nearly got away from him.
Three minutes later, he was hit with a rocket of a shot that he was just able to block, but the ball looked like it would roll into the goal anyway. He rolled over and reached back to stop it going over the line, forcing a tough call from the referees that ultimately went against Worland and kept the score 1-0 for the rest of the half. Balyo’s work in goal kept the match close until the end, and he credited his teammates with helping him prepare for the match.
“Going through training the whole week with my teammates, they did really well,” he said. “Knowing that you have your teammates at your back is a huge help.”
In the 55th minute, junior forward Jackson Gail broke free on a through-ball, leaving the Worland keeper one-on-one with the shifty striker. The keeper left his spot in front of goal and ran out to challenge Gail, falling on the ball and sending Gail into a somersault. That gave Cody a free kick and the keeper a yellow card, forcing him off the field. Senior midfielder Hunter Robbins made Worland pay, firing off a shot that curved into the back of the net past the backup goalie.
“It felt great,” Robbins said. “I’ve taken many, many free kicks this season and that’s the first one that’s been in the net, so I’m really happy I could contribute. … It fired us up quite a bit I think. We had an unlucky break with the second goal, but we didn’t drop our heads. We just kept going and going and going.”
With the match tied at 1-1, it looked for a moment as if an upset were in the making, but it wasn’t meant to be. In the 65th minute, Balyo saved another rocket fired at him from inside the box but couldn’t scoop up the ball before a Warrior got a boot on it to put Worland up 2-1. Six minutes later, Worland fired in another goal, this one a laser from outside the 18 that Balyo had no chance to reach.
Before the game seniors Balyo, Carson Davis, Robbins, Reese Ward, Wyatt Becker, Keaton Stone and Tucker Lynn were honored.
“It’s disappointing that this will be my last game on this field, but I’m glad that it’s with this great group of guys,” Robbins said, “I couldn’t be happier with the team.”
Cody 2, Buffalo 1
Cody opened the weekend in Buffalo, playing the Bison in a nonconference match. The Broncs haven’t had much exposure to teams on the east side of the state, but the lack of experience didn’t matter, as Cody won 2-1.
“It was a great test to see how we stacked up against that other side,” Rockey said. “The score differential is really close between all those guys on the east and I think we did really well.”
The Broncs opened the scoring quickly, with Gail finding a seam early and dropping in a goal to put the Broncs up 1-0. It didn’t last.
The Bison (2-11, 2-7 3A East) responded in kind a few minutes later, dropping in a goal of their own. The two teams went back and forth after that, trading shoulder checks and playing a physical brand of soccer the Broncs have not been accustomed to. Freshman midfielder Colby Balyo was able to squeeze past the Bison defense and launch a cross to junior forward C.J. Dominick, who dropped in the winning goal.
The game showed the team that the east side of the state may pose a bigger challenge than the records indicate.
“I learned that the east side is going to be tough,” Lynn said. “I think any (3A) East team can play with any team over here. We just have to be ready going into state for whatever we can see and don’t count anyone out.”
The Broncs finish the regular season at 9-6 and with a 7-5 record in conference play, guaranteeing them a berth in the state tournament. The team will travel to Cheyenne on Thursday for the opening round, where they face top-seeded Torrington.