JACKSON – The top-seeded Torrington High School boys’ soccer team overcame the disqualification of head coach Jeshua Arnusch who picked up two yellow cards late in the 4-3 loss to Riverton on Thursday in the Class 3A State Tournament in Jackson.
However, the Blazers rebounded the next two days with victories to come home with the consolation championship.
In the loss to Riverton, the teams were tied at thee apiece after 80 minutes, forcing the extra period.
The match remained tied until the 97th minute when Riverton broke the tie, ultimately scoring the game-winning goal on a penalty kick.
Nate Gutierrez, Deagan Kieth and Joshua Kingsley netted goals for the Blazers, but it was the events in the closing moments which marred the match.
Arnusch picked up his second yellow card of the match, resulting in disqualification from the remainder of the tournament.
Arnusch’s actions following his disqualification resulted in him turning in his resignation as head coach, effective immediately, to Torrington Athletic Director Dave Plendl and principal Chase Christensen on Friday morning.
Plendl declined to discuss the Arnusch’s actions because it was a personnel issue.
“Coach (Gabe) Bartlett and I met with the team at 10:30 a.m., and I want to compliment coach Bartlett for just reassuring them to maintain their confidence. The kids trusted him and do trust him,” Plendl said. “Coach Bartlett’s message to the team was to play classy the rest of the weekend. He reasserted his confidence in them. I thought in both games, he coached. He was directing traffic. His demeanor was classy, and it was needed.”
Arnusch wouldn’t discuss the situation when reached for comment on Monday.
“From there, we moved on,” Plendl said.
And that’s what the team did.
The Blazers went on to beat Rawlins for the first time this season.
After dropping an overtime loss at home and being shut out on the road, Torrington managed to knock off the Outlaws, 2-1.
“Rawlins’ goalkeeper is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Our game plan going in was to basically throw the kitchen sink at him,” Bartlett said. “We played three in the back and moved everyone else forward. We attacked him as much as we could.”
Freshman Kieser Wolfe made it 1-0 on a header.
“It set the tone,” Bartlett said. “We had some positive momentum early which we really hadn’t had in the first two games against Rawlins.”
Rawlins managed to tie the game at one apiece early in the second.
Midway through the second half, another freshman, Deagan Keith, connected on a penalty kick to put the Blazers up for good.
“We knew exactly how they play, and the team knew what was coming,” Bartlett said. “I was very impressed with the kids. They were amazing to how they responded. I can’t say enough about the seniors and how they held everything together.”
The win propelled the Blazers to the fifth-place game against Cody.
Torrington picked up a 3-1 win over Cody back on March, 23, and this time, it was no different.
The Blazers knocked the Broncs off, 4-1.
“We played Cody earlier in the year and knew a little bit about them,” Bartlett said. “They are a solid team with a good striker up front. We thought we could exploit their defensive backs with our athletes up top.”
Wolfe gave the Blazers an early 1-0 lead, but Cody managed to tie the match up going into halftime.
Despite that, there was a positive vibe in the Blazer locker room.
“We felt good about it going into halftime. We had worn down their backline. I told them at halftime, we are about to break this one wide open,” Bartlett said. “Our guys kept running by them. They couldn’t keep up with them.”
In the second half, senior Josh Posten, freshman Chase Miller and junior Nate Gutierrez netted goals as Torrington pulled away for the win.
With the margin of victory, it allowed Bartlett an opportunity to pull all of the seniors out of the game at the same time.
“We were able to get everyone in that game and be able to pull our seniors off at the end of the game. Credit to them, they responded well to what happened on Thursday. They held everything together,” he said. “Even though it was for fifth place, it was probably a little more exciting than you would normally get out of a fifth, sixth-place game with all they had been through over the weekend.”
The Blazers finished the season with a 14-5 record.
“We are really excited,” Bartlett said of the future. “All weekend, you’d look out and see six freshmen on the field, along with two sophomores. The future for the next three, four years is pretty bright for Torrington soccer.”