SMITHFIELD — It was exactly the kind of start the Bobcats were hoping for against one of the classification’s most stingy defenses.
Sky View scored twice in the first 20 minutes and played exceptional team defense throughout the entire 80 minutes en route to a gratifying 2-0 victory over Region 9 co-champion Dixie in the quarterfinals of the 4A Boys Soccer Championships on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon at Delbert L. Hansen Field.
The Flyers (12-2-1) had only conceded nine goals the entire season heading into Saturday’s showdown, and multiple goals on only one occasion.
“This (Desert Hills) team is used to scoring and not getting scored on,” said SV head coach Jorge Cruz, whose side extended its unbeaten streak to 11 straight matches. “They were 12-1 and they play phenomenal, good ball possession. ... Overall, I’m very proud of everybody. I mean, they’re playing with a lot of heart. It’s more about the heart than anything else.”
Dixie failed to capitalize on a dangerous free kick in the first few minutes of the match, and Sky View (10-2-4) quickly seized momentum. A long one-time effort by Kasen Hyde was blocked in the sixth minute, but the ball fell to the feet of Bobcat teammate Slader Chambers, who ripped a shot from 30 or so yards out that deflected off a Flyer defender and into the upper 90 of the far post.
The senior certainly picked a great time to score his first goal of the season.
“It felt really good because we needed a spark, because before that, the first five minutes, it was kind of slow, but once I got that goal we started playing faster and playing more as a team,” Chambers said.
Chambers’ goal did indeed seem to energized the hosts, who nearly struck again two minutes later on a nice pass from Caden Penrose to Hyde, who forced Dixie goalkeeper Jacob Larkin into a fairly challenging save.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, Larkin wasn’t able to stop the Bobcats’ next shot on frame. Midway through the opening half, Sky View midfielder Ty Erickson served up a perfectly placed free kick into the heart of the 6-yard box, and Hyde redirected it into the back of the net.
As expected, the Flyers came out strong in the second half and attacked like a team in dire need of a goal. They got one in the 58th minute, but it was wiped off the scoreboard due to an offside call.
As well as they attacked at times, the Flyers didn’t put their first shot on goal until midway through the second half. Simply put, Sky View’s backline rotation of Taylor Hobbs, Hunter Smith, Cole Finlinson, Davis Hall and Jackson Sundstrom played very well together. The Bobcats also received a nice defensive effort from midfielders Kai Schwartz and Jake Johnson, who is starting to make an impact after missing much of the season with an injury.
“They (the Thunder) were looking to switch our defense from one end to the other, and they were hoping I think to create a gap for them to go through,” Cruz said. “And my defense stayed tight the entire time, they played really well, were organized and communicated. I saw that going on all throughout the game. (The Thunder) have a really phenomenal player, No. 21 (Oscar Quintero), and we didn’t allow him to do much of anything.”
Indeed, Sky View limited Quintero — Dixie’s leading goal scorer on the season with 13 — to two shots, and neither were on frame. Keeper Mailik Horman made a couple big plays in the second half to help keep the clean sheet intact for the Bobcats, including calmly chesting down a ball with a Dixie player bearing down on him.
The Bobcats became just third team to keep the Flyers off the scoreboard this season — Sky View’s sixth shutout of 2019. Dixie netted multiple goals in its other 12 matches this spring.
“This game, it means a lot to us because we knew Dixie was going to come out strong and we knew they score a lot of goals,” Hobbs said. “So we knew we had to stay strong, and this just means a lot beating the second-place team from that region. I don’t even know what to say, I’m just so happy right now that we could beat them and shut them out.”
Sky View’s opportunities to counter increased substantially during the final 15 or so minutes of play as Dixie got increasingly desperate for a goal. The Bobcats failed to pull the trigger soon enough a couple of times in dangerous spots late in the match, but the damage had already been inflicted by the Region 12 champions.
Up next for Sky View is an intriguing matchup against Region 10 titleist and perennial state contender Mountain View in the semifinals next Friday at 6:15 p.m. at Herriman High School. The Bruins (12-4-0) needed overtime to eliminate Snow Canyon, 2-1.
“I’m very proud of these boys,” said Cruz, who team went unbeaten (6-0-1) on its home pitch this season. “I’m happy to have them, happy to be a part of their lives, and hopefully we continue playing like this. We hopefully have two more games, and if we continue like that and stay healthy, I think (a state title is) possible.”
MUSTANGS 2, MINERS 1
Mountain Crest’s Cinderella run continued Saturday with a come-from-behind triumph over Region 11 co-champion Park City. The Mustangs (10-8-1) have now knocked off two lower-seeded teams on their home pitch in the last four days.
Mustang head coach Mike Gurney felt his team “gifted” the Miners (9-7-1) a goal in the 30th minute, but loved the response from his players. Mason Hansen equalized for Mountain Crest 10 minutes later on a low-driven 25-yard free kick to the far post.
The visitors took the lead for good 12 minutes into the second half when Jackson Clark headed in a Carter Anderson free kick at the back post. The Mustangs nearly got an insurance goal later in the half when Treyson Harris “just smashed” a shot off the left post.
Jaydn McBride made a diving save to his left to preserve Mountain Crest’s lead.
“It was an all out team effort,” Gurney said. “Everybody played their part and we’re going to enjoy this, and then we’ll be back after it again next week and we’re going to be prepared.”
Up next for Mountain Crest is a semifinal encounter with defending state champion Desert Hills. The two teams will square off next Friday at 4 p.m. at Herriman High.
Regardless of what happens, it’s been a enjoyable and fulfilling season for the Mustangs, who only returned three starters from last year’s very talented side.
“I think it’s pretty significant because we did graduate a ton of players, and my biggest concern coming into the season was our depth,” Gurney said. “I was really worried about what kind of depth we were going to have on this team, and it’s showing right now that I’ve got a lot more depth than I ever anticipated. I’ve got guys stepping in and playing some very big minutes for us ... who played mostly JV for us most of the season, so the depth is there.”
THUNDER 4, GRIZZLIES 1
Reigning 4A champion Desert Hills eliminated Logan (9-4-2) in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row — this time at home. The Thunder (16-2-1), co-champions of Region 9, netted all four of their goals in a 20-minute stretch of the second half.
“We just kind of had a mental lapse after that first (goal) and we paid for it. Dearly,” said LHS head coach Natalie Norris, who felt her team had more dangerous scoring chances than the Thunder until DH’s onslaught of goals.
To their credit, the Grizzlies battled until the end and pulled a goal back in the 68th minute. Dylan McCuskey tracked down a Abel Tlatelpa through ball, took a couple of dribbles into the 18-yard box and buried his shot. It’s only the second goal the Thunder have conceded in their last 11 games.
McCuskey, Rogelio Gonzales, Nathan Perez and Bennett Browning all had legitimate opportunities to score, Norris asserted. Kai Klingonsmith had a brace for Desert Hills, netting his first goal in what Norris called a “gorgeous” strike from distance.
“This was a special group of boys,” Norris said. “We went through a lot together as a team, through a lot of ups and downs both on the field and off the field, and it was incredible to see us continually bounce back. It obviously didn’t end how we wanted it to end, but the unity that they had and the effort that was shown day in and day out was something that I will not forget. It was an unforgettable season in many ways.”