The Jackson Broncs (13-1) just destroyed teams as they geared up for regional games. Since the Broncs lost their only game of the season to Kelly Walsh on April 9, the Broncs have conceded just 2 goals total in the following 8 contests — 6 of those shutouts.
The final two victims were sent to William T. McIntosh Stadium this week as Evanston and Star Valley couldn’t find a crack in the armor against a team looking for their third straight state title.
Jackson 8, Evanston 0
Wednesday’s first 3 minutes against Evanston is everything you need to know about the Jackson Broncs boys’ soccer team. They didn’t score (they often do when the game is only a few minutes old) but everything they do has been shown.
Stunning dribbling from Rutley Heinemann, who was Jackson’s top striker all afternoon. Tic-Tac-Toe precision in a box by Teddy, Hunter, Michael…everyone. Stifling pressure backed by an active and engaged midfield. And pace on defense (Braden Hills) if anyone even thinks he’ll pass goaltender Javy Huta.
It’s the kind of 3-minute opening that has demoralized most teams in the 4A this season.
The Red Devils tried to deal physically with the Broncs, who have a reputation statewide for flopping. Jackson did not appear in phases.
Evanston goaltender Dom Mendez turned away some early Stingers to keep the Broncs off the board until a cross from Charlie Hoelscher found Heinemann’s head at the back door for a 1-0 lead after 6 1/2 minutes.
Four minutes later, it was Teddy Opler all alone with an easy ball from just inside the arc. And what are you doing with Opler? How can you defend this child? Opler is so dangerous with the ball that most defenders have to give him space for fear of getting hit by his speed and gait, but Opler has that shot too. Give him too much time and space and he will make you pay for it.
But by just 2 goals, Jackson found himself guilty of letting a weaker opponent hang around; always a risky business.
The Red Devils created their best scoring chance with 10 minutes left in the 1st half after defender Charlie Barden turned around after some lucky jumps and sent on Kurtis Richens and made a 2-on-0 breakaway. Jackson goalie Javy Huta risked and aggressively came out on Perez to smother most of the shot, but the elder goalie still needed defender Jensen Smock to help him and stop a slow roller that had eyes for the other side of the field net had.
The shock Jackson gave at least got Charlie Hoelscher going. The senior midfielder got the ball into the box with a minute to go, had Opler to his left but opted for a stop-and-start stutter step and then the shot, which looked like a ping-pong, from at least one of the defenders by Red Devil before slipping past Mendez on the misdirection.
But a 3-0 lead against a team with a 2-7-2 record didn’t feel right. Coach Matt Hoelscher emphasized patience in a crowded box in the first 40 minutes.
“I give them credit, they played a defensive block. Lots of bodies in the box and not much space. It was difficult for us to deal with so many people in the pits,” admitted Hoelscher. “Their goalkeeper played really well but we helped him by shooting straight at him.”
Hoelscher asked his kids to stay more focused in the 18 and keep looking for the right shots, not just any shots.
Evanston’s box-stacking defensive shell didn’t do much to help her ability to score. They certainly looked like a team that wasn’t coming to Jackson to win but would be content at least not being kicked out of the stadium by the 4A powerhouse.
Jackson 10, Star Valley 0
A hat-trick by Teddy Opler along with two goals from Jensen Smock and Sahir Romero helped Jackson bury Star Valley for the second time this season on Thursday’s senior night in Jackson.
Romero scored Jackson’s first goal after a scramble in the box from a corner kick just 6 1/2 minutes into the contest.
A penalty kick from Charlie Hoelscher at 19:40 to the game in the 1st half brought the Broncs to 2:0.
Teddy Opler’s breakaway conversion made Jackson 3-0 just minutes later. Opler added a PK goal to end the half.
A Romero-to-Opler-to-Smock combo was as nice as it gets for Smock’s 5th goal of the game for the Broncs. Smock was there to clean up after a save on his own shot and another on Opler’s shot and then the ball was right there for Smock to go in the top right corner for goal.
With the 6:0 lead, coach Hölscher let some JV players run in. But Opler whistled past the Braves keeper from a tight angle to give the Braves keeper a 7-0 lead.
Dilan Tzompa Perez scored his own goal for Jackson with 22 minutes left and weaved in and out of the Star Valley defense to pass Killian Rainey with a simple tapper.
Perez-Pluma scored Jackson’s 9th goal and Romero put an exclamation point on it with the Broncs’ 10th.
Jackson is going to regional games where the Broncs are lucky enough not to have to travel. Jackson also gets a 1st round bye before taking on his first opponent (not yet known) on Friday, May 13th.
Jackson has an experienced team that knows what it takes to excel in the postseason.
“We talked about that at the end of the Star Valley game — what it takes to take it up a notch and get into Regionals and State,” said Hoelscher. “This team was there. They know how to handle the pressure.”