HERRIMAN — It was the kind of matchup one would hope for from the top two ranked boys lacrosse teams in the 4A classification.
No. 2 Green Canyon and No. 1 Sky View put on a well-contested, drama-laden performance in the finals of the 4A State Championships, which took place Friday afternoon at Zion Bank Stadium. One memorable play by standout defender/long-stick midfielder Weston Christensen ended up being the difference in front of a big crowd.
The junior scooped up a ground ball 20-or-so seconds into overtime, sprinted 30-plus yards and fired a shot past stellar Sky View goalie Porter Jackson, lifting the second-seeded Wolves to a hard-fought 9-8 victory over the top-seeded Bobcats. The inaugural 4A state championship game was very, very competitive as neither team led by more than two goals, plus there were five ties and one lead change.
“Earlier in the game I had taken (the ball) down (the field),” Christensen said of his golden goal. “They were a little slow to slide. They were still there, but I just passed it off instead of taking it and drawing a guy. So I realized then, I’m like, ‘hey, I’ll just draw a guy and just go in and score,’ and it happened. ... I missed a couple of GBs (groundballs) before, but I was able to get (that one).”
It was the second state championship of any kind for a boys program from Green Canyon, which first opened its doors prior to the 2017-18 academic year. The Wolves shared the 4A state title in boys tennis with Ridgeline and Crimson Cliffs a couple of weeks ago.
“I went over to Dave Swenson, our principal, and just said, ‘OK, there’s one for you,’” GC head coach Troy Oldham said. “But he’s been supportive from the very, very day I stepped on the field. I mean, anything we’ve needed, (our administration has) found a way to get it for us, so we’ve felt a tremendous amount of support from them, and then the fans (were awesome). I mean, they fill buses. ... Yeah, that was a super fun crowd.”
Christensen’s heroics set off a wild celebration for the Wolves, who avenged a pair of loses to the Bobcats in the regular season. Sky View (15-4) was the only team from Region 11 to beat Green Canyon (14-6) this spring.
“If you look at those games, there was one quarter in each one where we just sort of lost our direction a little bit and then got it back, but not enough to win,” Oldham said. “And so it’s been a (bad) taste in these guys’ mouths since the first (game), and then it was really nasty (after) the second one.”
Indeed, the Wolves were ecstatic to defeat their biggest rivals on the biggest stage. Nevertheless, there was a lot of mutual respect exhibited between players from the two teams that grew up playing together. It was also a very clean game as neither squad was whistled for a penalty during the first three quarters.
“These two teams used to be the same team when they were in little league before the high school split,” SV head coach Bryant Cannell said. “They even won a championship together in fifth and sixth grade, so there’s definitely a lot of history between the two teams, a lot of emotion and a lot of relationships that go beyond just facing each other. So I was definitely a very impactful game, I think, in the long term for both teams.”
The Bobcats got off to a quick start as they netted three of the contest’s first four goals — all by different players. In fact, Sky View’s first six goals were by different athletes. The Region 11 champions never trailed in the opening half, but they were also never really able to carve out any significant separation against Green Canyon, which ended its season on a seven-game winning streak.
“(A three-goal lead) would have helped, but Green Canyon all year has been really good about applying constant pressure and continually scoring,” Cannell said. “They did it against Ridgeline (two days ago) when Ridgeline was up 7-2. You can never just get ahead, you have to get ahead and keep staying ahead.”
Sky View was in great shape to take a 6-5 advantage into the locker room at the half, but, to its credit, Green Canyon played until the final whistle. Brandon Mueller timed his cut perfectly and converted on a pass from JD McKenna at the buzzer to pull the Wolves even at the half.
Both teams sparkled defensively in the second half as they each only conceded one goal in the third and fourth quarters. Additionally, both goalies made several huge plays.
“Our coaches are great coaches,” GC goalie Peyton Johnson said. “(Nathan) Kenney and Jordan (Israelsen) make some great adjustments at halftime and we were able to adjust to what they were doing well and figure it out.”
Johnson came through with five of his 15 saves in the third quarter, while Jackson was a wall in the opening half as he finished with 13 of his 17 saves during the first 24 minutes of action.
“Peyton saved us,” Christensen asserted. “I think that’s who deserves the real credit here is Peyton saving how many freaking shots?”
“I was very nervous coming in,” said Jackson, who has persevered through a knee and calf injury this spring. “I’m coming off an injury and I still don’t think I’m at 100 percent, but I’m out here competing.”
One of the unsung heroes of the game for the state champions was Kyler Roper, who won faceoff after faceoff, especially after the opening quarter. It was a role Roper took on after fellow senior Harrison Todd was sidelined with an injury.
“For Kyler Roper to take that faceoff (circle) and be able to own that (was a big deal) and against two really good faceoff guys,” Oldham said. “I’m super proud of him.”
McKenna and Spencer Gerber finished with two goals apiece for the Wolves, plus McKenna applied the pressure that resulted in his team’s first goal. Ian Maughan, the hero from Wednesday’s semifinal win, Teegan Carling and Tucker Sampson also found the back of the net for Green Canyon, which was ultimately undaunted by its slow start in both games this week.
“You’ve got to have confidence coming into these games, knowing that you can make the play that decides (that game), not the one that makes you lose,” Johnson said. “You can’t have the mindset. (We had the right) mindset and we pulled it out.”
Josh Hall and Parker Robbins contributed with two goals apiece for the Bobcats, who also got goals from Mavrik Hillyard, Easton Ballard, Garrett Zollinger and Gage Leishman. Sky View lost its four games this spring by a combined seven goals. Indeed, it was still a memorable season for the Bobcats.
“The way I see it, we didn’t come up short,” Jackson said. “I mean, it’s not only about a state ring, it’s about the memories we make along the way and building the bond with my friends, and I feel like my teammates now are my brothers. ... The way I see, I think we’re winners today.”
GIRLS TITLE GAME
Top-seeded Bear River capped off an undefeated season with a 12-8 triumph over No. 3 Juan Diego (14-5) in Thursday’s title tilt.
Jenna LaCroix, the Region 11 Offensive Player of the Year, came up big for the Bears (19-0) as she finished with four goals and three assists, plus scooped up an impressive 16 ground balls. Marley Kierstead chipped in with a trio of goals for Bear River, which got one goal and two assists from Sydney Wilkinson.
Kierstead poured in five goals and LaCroix added a trio of goals and assists in Bear River’s 16-2 win over No. 5 Sky View in the semifinal. Kierstead accumulated 87 goals this season, wile LaCroix scored 54 times and racked up 56 assists.