5A boys soccer finals set after two intense semifinal matches
May 22, 2018 08:06PM
By Justin Adams
Alta's Christian Simmons dribbles the ball. (Justin Adams | City Journals)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
As the public announcer counted down the final ten seconds of the 5A boys soccer state semifinal game, the Skyline Eagles trailed the Alta Hawks by one goal, but the Eagles were on the attack. A Skyline attacker crossed the ball into the 6-yard box, right in front of Alta’s goal, where it bounced around like a pinball for a few breathless seconds before an Alta defender was able to knock it out of harm’s way. Knowing they didn’t have time to chase down the ball and make a play, the Skyline players collapsed to the ground in defeat, overcome with not only the exhaustion of playing 80 minutes of the most intense high school soccer you can find in the state of Utah, but also from the heartbreak of having given up a two-goal lead.
“It was definitely the most intense game of the season,” said Alta senior midfielder Josh Affleck, whose header with 2:19 remaining completed the comeback and sealed the victory for the Hawks (as well as completed a hat trick, all of them headers).
Alta took the first lead of the game, courtesy of the first of Affleck’s header goals. For a while, it looked like the halftime score was going to be 1-0, but Skyline was able to get an equalizer in the final two minutes of the half.
If the first half ended poorly for Alta, the second half started even worse as Skyline scored two goals in the first ten minutes, taking a commanding 3-1 lead.
“It sucked but I knew it wasn’t over,” said Affleck following the game. “We’ve been working all season for that moment.”
Alta’s hopes were rekindled when it was awarded a penalty kick after a Skyline defender dragged an attacking Hawk to the ground on a cross. Kenny Kocherscheidt took the penalty kick and drilled the ball into the top right corner of the goal.
Energized by the goal, Alta’s attack stepped up the pressure and was able to tie the game just seven minutes later on Affleck’s second goal. Tied 3-3, the final fifteen minutes of the game were played at a frenetic pace; each possession felt like it could lead to a game-winning goal. In the end, Alta came out on top thanks to Affleck’s third goal in the final minutes of the game.
“They have heart,” said Alta head coach Lee Mitchell following the game.
“We just kept pushing and never gave up,” said Affleck.
Alta moves on to the 5A state finals, where it will play Viewmont, who defeated Brighton in the second semifinal, which also ended in a wild finish.
Brighton looked like the stronger team much of the game, especially in the first half when they dominated time of possession and looked as if they were wearing down Viewmont with good spacing and precise passing. Brighton’s keeper didn’t even touch the ball until midway through the first half.
Brighton played a patient and careful game, as if they were waiting to capitalize on an eventual Viewmont mistake. But Viewmont matched them with a conservative defensive effort of their own, always keeping enough players on the backline to thwart Brighton’s offensive pushes with strength in numbers.
In the end, it was the Bengals who made the first critical mistake of the game as a communication breakdown between Brighton’s keeper and one of its defenders resulted in an easy goal for Viewmont with just a few minutes left in the game.
Viewmont’s defense held strong against Brighton’s desperate attempts to tie the game in the final moments and ultimately completed a shutout of a Bengals squad that had outscored its opponents 14-1 in its previous four games.
Alta’s coach Mitchell knows that his team will have its work cut out for them in the finals.
“They’re a very good team,” said Mitchell. “They’re big and strong. They don’t give up. You can see from the Brighton game that they fight to the end. It will be a great game.”
The 5A final between Alta and Viewmont is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Thursday night at Rio Tinto stadium.
Follow Justin on Twitter for live coverage from the finals. @Justin_Journal