The rivalry game between the Gillette College and Sheridan College men’s soccer teams carried a little extra weight this year.
Saturday’s showdown in Gillette was each team’s final game of the regular season and they both had a chance to jump up to the sixth seed entering the Region IX Tournament.
It wasn’t a pretty game for Gillette, but the Pronghorns sill managed to come away with an important 2-1 victory.
Sophomore defender Isaack Shire scored the winner with less than two minutes left in the game after Sheridan equalized in the 66th minute.
“It felt amazing walking off with the game winner against the rival team to clinch the sixth seed. It’s an amazing feeling,” Shire said. “That was a win we needed. … Just to pull out that W and get out of there, that’s really all that mattered to us. I think this game turned the season around.”
Shire had an adventurous game, briefly leaving the field with an injury after a scary first-half collision, hitting the post with a wicked free kick in the second half and then scoring the winner with 1:55 left in the game. That’s in addition to his usual heavy workload on defense.
The winner came from Martin Soto’s corner kick and it took a little good fortune for the Pronghorns to put it in the goal. The ball landed right in the middle of several Sheridan defenders in the box, but Shire put a leg to the ball and it deflected in for the 2-1 lead.
The Pronghorns’ opening goal came at the end of a first half that didn’t offer many chances. Sheridan’s Garrett Cole was called for elbowing Joey Antonovich in the box and Soto calmly rolled a low penalty shot into the corner of the net like he usually does.
Gillette College had a couple other opportunities in the first half, none bigger than the one 12 minutes into the game. Leno Degaetano beat the goalkeeper to a loose ball in the open field, putting a shot on target while the goalie was on the ground, but a heroic clearance off the line denied him the goal.
The 1-0 lead held until halftime, but the Pronghorns couldn’t keep the Generals off the scoreboard forever. The game really opened up midway through the second half with both teams getting chances before Sheridan found the back of the net in the 66th minute.
Jacoby Garcia saved the initial low shot to stop a break, but he spilled the ball and a sprinting Nathan Dos Santos got to it first to score Sheridan’s lone goal.
Shire and Jordan Milby both hit the frame of the goal with shots in the second half. At the other end of the field, Garcia rebounded well from the conceded goal and made multiple saves at a full stretch to put an end to Sheridan attacks.
The win makes Gillette’s final division record 4-6 after being 1-5 three weeks ago. Sheridan finishes 3-6-1, as does Central Community College, so the Pronghorns leapfrog both those teams in the playoff seeding.
That means they will play either Otero or Trinidad State junior colleges, rather than the regular season champion, Laramie County Community College. It makes the first round of the Region IX Tournament a little easier, but the Pronghorns want to see LCCC eventually.
“We’d rather take Trinidad or Otero and then play LCCC in Denver in the semifinals game,” Shire said. “But we want LCCC, we want that rematch. When we went up there, we weren’t ready. I feel like our team is ready right now.”
The first round of the regional tournament is scheduled for Saturday.