TORRINGTON – After conceding the first goal at home Friday against conference foe Lander, the Torrington Trailblazers turned things around to pick up the 3-1 win, gaining an early edge in the standings.
The Tigers converted a bomb from outside the 18-yard box in the 16th minute to take a 1-0 lead over the Blazers, but Torrington ratcheted down on Lander.
“We made some tactical changes,” Torrington senior Nathan Stitt said. “We started stopping what they were good at. At first, we were just playing our game, but we started stopping them and it turned things around. Our defense played great tonight.”
Those tactical changes gave the Blazers a defense to build on and 15 minutes after the Lander goal, Stitt found his way through two defenders to score, tying the game at 1-1 in the 31st minute.
“I was really impressed by the way the team handled the tactical changes throughout the game,” coach Jeshua Arnusch said. “I threw a lot of new guys in new positions, with special assignments designed to funnel the possession game that Lander plays to where we wanted it.
“We don’t usually play so defensive, but Lander has great foot skills and we knew if we could stay tight as a unit, that eventually Lander would lose patience and over commit their defensive numbers to unlocking us, leaving Stitt up top one-on-one,” he added. “We did the same thing to them last year and fortunately for us, it has worked in our favor the last couple games against them.”
Defense turned into more offense in the second half, with Ethan Creagar netting a goal for the Blazers in the 71st minute to give Torrington a 2-1 edge. Josh Kingsley put the game out of reach with his first goal of the season, finding the side of the net in the 77th-minute off the feed from Stitt, putting Torrington up 3-1. Freshman Ty Prall also had an assist in the contest.
“This was a big conference win for us,” Stitt said. “Each game we are playing better and better, and we will keep doing that.”
Scottsbluff, Neb. 4, Torrington 2
After a back-and-forth opening Thursday at home against Scottsbluff, Torrington found itself down 1-0 after a deep shot by the Bearcats found its way into the back of the net in the 22nd minute. Two minutes later, Scottsbluff scored another goal to go up 2-0.
Stitt got Torrington on the board in the 26th minute with a poke from a couple feet out that went into the opposite netting, trimming the lead to 2-1. Scottsbluff closed out the half on a hot streak, scoring twice in the final few minutes before intermission.
“This was a learning opportunity for our back line and goalkeeper tonight,” Arnusch said. “We made some mental mistakes, but overall I’m happy with how the second half turned out. We made some adjustments and outscored them 1-0 and the defense learned how to handle the long ball over the top.”
It was a defensive battle in the second half. Stitt found a crack in the Bearcat defense again and knocked through a shot from just outside the 6-yard box, cutting the lead to 4-2 with five minutes to go. Torrington ran out of time, falling 4-2.
Stitt recorded his second and third goals of the season against the Bearcats, while Prall recorded an assist in the loss.
Torrington now sits at 2-1 on the year, with a 1-0 conference record. Rawlins is second in the conference with a 2-2 record and a 1-0 record against 3A Southeast teams, while Lander is in third (1-3, 0-2). The Blazers hit the road Tuesday to take on Gering, Neb. after press time. Torrington’s next action comes on April 5 at home against Newcastle, with a 6 p.m. start.
“I thought we did a good job of keeping our layers connected, but we still need to keep working on our first touch,” Arnusch said after the Lander game. “We also need to start working on winning our own goal kicks. That’s two games in a row where we have lost that battle. We are looking forward to having the chance of fixing that against Gering before we have another Wyoming game on the slate.”