In a game that turned physical early on, Logan adjusted and escaped the first round of the 4A Boys Soccer Championships with a 1-0 win over Salem Hills on Wednesday afternoon.
Grizzly defender Abel Tlatelpa headed a ball into the back of the net on a 45-yard free kick in the 55th minute to break the stalemate, but it was the only respite Logan (9-3-2) managed to earn for itself, and it showed the whole 80 minutes. The Skyhawks (11-5-2) utilized every chance to get physical and were called for significantly more fouls throughout the contest.
“It was a battle, though and through the entire way,” Logan head coach Natalie Norris said. “Salem Hills is a very quality team and they were a very physical team, and so it made us have to step up our game and kind of wake up at halftime.”
Norris added that during halftime, she spoke to the boys about matching the intensity of the Skyhawks, along with technical cleanups like playing well off the ball and getting to more 50/50 balls. And, according to Norris, it paid off beautifully in the second half.
“Those first 10-15 minutes were largely in our control and it was really fun to watch,” Norris said. “That’s our Logan High soccer that I’ve been waiting to see.”
Logan’s goal was a culmination of a relatively long line of chances, including a failed penalty kick off the foot of forward Dylan McCuskey that was saved by the Salem Hills goalkeeper diving to his left. And while it didn’t lead to a splurge of goals or even offensive chances in the last 25 minutes of the game, it helped the Grizzlies finish the game effectively.
“It brought the tempo of the game up so much,” Tlatelpa said of his goal. “It felt dead, but as soon as we got the goal everyone woke up and were ready to go.”
Along with a normalized tempo in the midfield and final third, the already stout Logan defense were able to prey on a frantic Salem Hills attacking line. Tlatelpa said the panic induced by the second-half goal made it “a lot easier to recover the ball” from the Skyhawks, who spent a good chunk of the final 20 minutes playing long balls forward with little regard for who might be on the end of the kick.
Stoppage time took the already heightened intensity, physicality and tempo and turned it to an 11, potentially adding a few premature grays hairs to the coaching staff and fans. No fewer than five extra minutes were added on to the end of the 40-minute second half. Every stop and start of play added to the maddening tension.
“The clock just kept going, so I was like ‘what is going on?’” Norris said. “But that’s primarily where we needed to finish the game and I feel like my boys did that. They gave me everything they had in their tanks and it paid off in the end for us.”
The only negative on the day was the lack of goals, scoring chances and the ability to capitalize on the scoring chances. It was something Norris wasn’t shy about pointing out.
“I’d love to score some freaking goals,” Norris said with a chuckle. “I’ve said this many times, I just want them to shoot more. We’ve got to shoot the dang ball.”
Not helping the matter of offense was the lack of Logan’s second-leading scorer, Miguel Martinez, who abruptly quit after the end of the regular season.
Regardless of roster fluctuation, Norris backed her squad completely.
“This is our team,” she said. “This is what we have to work with and I have no doubt that my team, who we have now, is up for the challenge. I have no question about that.”
In the second round, the Grizzlies will travel to face the top seed out of Region 9 and defending 4A champion, Desert Hills (15-2-1). The Thunder downed Stansbury 2-0 in their playoff opener. Last season, the Grizzlies lost to Desert Hills, 2-1, in Logan in the state quarterfinals.