Douglas head coach Clay Ewing couldn’t help but sound like a broken record after Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Powell in the Bearcats’ home opener. Already reeling from back-to-back 2-1 losses to Cody and Newcastle, both games Douglas had several opportunities to win, Ewing and his players walked off the field again knowing that they let the final result slip away from them.
Powell entered the game as the No. 2 ranked team in 3A after going on a tear to begin the season 5-1, but dropped its second game to Cody on Thursday, 2-1, before making the trek to Douglas. And still, the Bearcats found a way to contend with the high-powered Panthers for most of the contest.
“We’re just simply not finishing on goal,” Ewing said. “If you watch any level of soccer . . . if you don’t finish inside that goal frame it’s going to be tough to win games.”
The Panthers seized possession throughout the first 10 minutes of the game, which allowed the Bearcats to quickly become familiar with their opponent. It eventually resulted with the ball in the back of the net. Powell took an early 1-0 lead.
Eventually Ewing’s young squad found its footing, making smooth passes and putting shots on goal in transition. When they’re confident in their abilities and trust one another to make the necessary runs toward the goal, the Bearcats can compete with anyone.
On a defensive lapse just before halftime the Panthers squeezed a shot just past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Vince Haukereid to make it 2-0. Douglas came out slow in the second half and was primarily on the defensive, until freshman River Bergquist found nylon to cut the deficit to 2-1.
As the game clock began to tick under 20 minutes remaining, Ewing decided to pull Haukereid from the goal and inserted him into the lineup to help give the Bearcats a relatively fresh pair of legs.
“Vince (Haukereid) helped send the message,” Ewing said. “Without hesitation he came in to try and help us and that’s been one of the fun things about this team. They respond to anything that we throw at them.”
If only to remind themselves of their will to keep fighting, the substitution, or simply the execution of it all, fell short in the end as Powell added another goal and held on to win the game 3-1.
The reaction after the loss was the same for Ewing and his players. They knew they had their chances. They knew the win was within striking distance. And they also understand what they need to do to right the ship.
“They’re confident,” Ewing said of his team, despite three straight losses. “We’re right there, we just have to tweak a couple of things and make it happen.”
The focus now for Douglas is to get back to its brand of soccer. The Bearcats excelled during the first tournament of the season by placing an emphasis on getting the ball out wide. This allowed fleet-footed players like Travis Tigert and Bergquist to make runs toward the goal and at a minimum, left Douglas with more shots on goal than the past three games.
“We worked them during the opening tournament and now we just need to refocus ourselves,” Ewing said. “We’ll look to try and get those two wings more involved and change up some things.”
There are better days to come for the Bearcats. The embattled squad returned to the pitch on Tuesday for a road contest against Rawlins, and will travel back to the Jackalope City on Saturday for an afternoon matchup with Newcastle.
Douglas fell 2-1 to the Dogies last weekend in Weston County and will look to get back on the winning path this weekend.