Midway through the first half against Rock Springs last Friday the score was still even as junior Jafet Hernandez stepped up to take a roughly 25-yard free kick.
He struck the ball well: It took a slight deflection off the wall and slipped under the crossbar to put the Broncs up in a soccer game they held on to win, 2-1.
The lanky midfielder was pleased to give his side an early lead, but he’s not interested in always being the guy taking the mark in those moments.
“It’s always a great chance to go for goal, but you also have to think about your teammates,” he said, motioning to the opposite end of the field. “Like on the free kicks over there, I told Hunter [Dewell], ‘you can take it,’ or I told Gerardo [Duran], I told him ‘you can take it.’ Because I wanted to give them a chance to try to score.”
Jackson’s second goal wouldn’t come on those tries, but the score that put the Broncs ahead for good was a pretty and difficult shot nonetheless.
Freshman Charlie Hoelscher found some space in the midfield just a few moments after the first goal and sent a long, looping ball that ducked under the cross bar and in.
“He can hit those kind of balls,” head coach Matt Hoelscher said, “so I was happy he decided to strike it from distance.”
The Tigers entered Friday’s game second in the 4A West division and already had a win over Jackson under their belt this season, a 1-0 verdict in the season opener back in March.
And with the final moments waning, the Tigers were on the cusp of finding the equalizer. With a touch under four minutes to play, Jackson defended a free kick opportunity right outside the 18. With under a minute left, Rock Springs earned a corner kick for its final chance, but the Broncs defense held again to secure the win.
Perhaps even more than the goals scored, it was the defensive stand Hoelscher was most pleased with. He pointed to a draw earlier this season against Natrona, in which Jackson’s defense let an equalizer through in a game his side felt should have been a win.
“We’ve been looking to do that in some of our other games,” he said. “I’m really proud of the boys that they could withstand that kind of pressure late in the game.”
The victory was Jackson’s fourth in a row, but the streak ended there. The Broncs traveled to Green River Saturday morning and fell 1-0.
Still, now 4-3-1 and third in the division standings, Hoelscher said it can only be taken as a learning experience heading forward.
“I told the boys it would be a good test for us,” he said of the back-to- back games. “At regionals or states, we’ve got to play back to backs. It’s definitely not an excuse, but we did look a little tired.”
Girls bounce back
So far this season there has been no stopping the Rock Springs girls soccer team, but for at least one half of play Friday, Jackson did just that.
The unbeaten Tigers side had a clear advantage in possession and shots on goal throughout the first 40 minutes of play, but as the halftime horn sounded the game remained scoreless.
That changed in the second half. Jackson let through a score just over five minutes into the half, and within 10 minutes the Tigers scored four goals on their way to a 6-0 win.
Jackson head coach Kristen Pizzaro said as the goals were scored, the confidence of her side broke down. As the confidence broke down, so did the Broncs’ decision making as the Tigers continued to pour it on.
“When they get frustrated and they get their heads down, they’re losing focus of what their job is,” she said, “and that’s to play soccer and not think so much about it.”
That first half, though, that was something the coach said the Broncs could build on.
“We have to let the girls know we’re hanging with these teams,” she said. “So we broke down in the second half. How do we learn from that? How do we grow from that? How do we regroup?”
Jackson seemed to answer those questions on Saturday. The Broncs traveled to Green River and came back with a 3-1 victory on the strength of two goals from Phoebe Alva Rosa and one from Holland Gaston.
The victory puts Jackson at 4-3-1 on the season and moves it into third place in the 4A West.
Both the boys and girls sides will be tested when they take the field at home Friday against Kelly Walsh. The Kelly Walsh boys are on a tear and sit first in the conference. The girls are second, behind only Rock Springs.
Track records fall
With the Jackson track team in Smithfield, Utah, on Saturday, senior pole vaulter Madden Hart made history for the Broncs.
Hart cleared 13 feet, 7 inches to best the previous record, which coach Bill Wiley believed was set in 1993.
Meanwhile in California, distance runner Mac Staryk took the starting line in the Brooks Invitational 3,200-meter race at the Mt. Sac Relays. He crossed the finish line in 9:19.25, good for third place and a new school record.
The record previously belonged Wyatt Sullivan, who went 9:36.21 earlier this season.
“Those are two of the guys we were hoping, and knew, were going to do really good things for us this year,” Wiley said.
Girls lacrosse splits
The girls lacrosse team opened its regular season campaign with a pair of games in Bozeman, Montana, over the weekend. Jackson picked up an 11-10 win over Helena before falling to defending Montana High School Lacrosse Association champion Bozeman, 16-2.
Kristina MacLeod paced Jackson with six goals across the two games. Katie Yarrow had three, and Quincy Spitzer added two in the victory over Helena.
Low numbers hurt boys lax
The boys lacrosse team hit the road over the weekend for a pair of games in Idaho and came back without a win.
Jackson fell to Centennial in its first game, 15-6, before falling to Timberline 10-8 later in the day.
“It was kind of a tough go. We had some injuries over the past week that kind of hamstrung us as far as depth on the roster,” head coach George Hein said, noting standout Keegan Butler performed well despite nagging injuries of his own. “I think in the first game we were pretty neck and neck midway through the third (quarter). I think we just ran out of gas.”
Now 1-6 on the year, Jackson has a chance to get back in the win column with three games next week. Hein said while the varsity team is still hampered by injuries, Jackson will get some relief with the junior varsity side off for the weekend. That will allow some younger athletes to step up and round out the roster.