MILLVILLE — Three second-half goals lifted Ridgeline to a 3-0 win over Snow Canyon on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 4A state boys soccer playoffs.
The defending champion Riverhawks (13-3) didn’t start the game like the reigning champs or the recently crowned Region 11 titleists. Snow Canyon (8-9) outshot Ridgeline 5-2 through the first half hour of the game and controlled possession for most of that time.
Ridgeline’s head coach, Richard Alexander, said that the first 30 minutes was “just our guys getting those playoff jitters out.”
“That wasn’t my team the first 30 minutes of the game,” Alexander said. “It was nice for them to get those jitters out and actually start playing our game. And once we were able to do that, we were able to control the game.”
The second half would eventually bring three goals to make up for a scoreless opening 40 minutes, but the process of scoring those goals began in the last 10 minutes or so of the first half.
“The turning point was right before half and into the beginning of the second half,” Alexander said. “Our possession started to pick up. Our guys were moving in the correct spots. Their assignments were being executed.
The byproduct of that pickup in execution was a goal in the 48th minute. Gabe Watson lobbed a through ball deep into Snow Canyon’s defensive half, with Grady Workman finding his way to the end of that pass. Workman pushed his way past the defense and into the top left section of the box, where he slotted the ball right around Warriors goalkeeper Alder Brough.
“It was a great ball from Gabe,” Workman said. “It was an easy finish.”
With that goal in hand, the Riverhawks kept the pressure on, dominating the second half by playing their game, which Alexander said comes down to “discipline in your own position.” The domination was the kind of thing Ridgeline normally does all game.
“The second half is exactly what we’re used to — full games, though,” Alexander said.
With the pressure mounting late in the game, sixth-seeded Snow Canyon was forced into mistakes. The most costly of those came in the 76th minute. Third-seeded Ridgeline played a cross in, forcing Warriors defender Mason Ballantyne to stick his foot out to try and clear the ball or at least block the cross. Neither happened as the ball deflected off his foot and trickled into the net for an own goal.
That goal proved to be a back-breaker for Snow Canyon as it turned a still close 1-0 game with four minutes on the clock into a 2-0 game with not enough time to realistically mount a two-goal comeback. It was against this already defeated Warriors side that the Riverhawks scored their third goal. Workman played a cross to a wide-open Karim Salome, who put home a clinical finish from the center of the box.
Riley Garvert recorded his ninth clean sheet of the season for Ridgeline, though it required just three saves. Snow Canyon had five shots in the first half, but only two in the second. The Riverhawks pelted Brough, forcing him to make eight saves besides the three balls that made it by his gloves.
Ridgeline has now won nine straight games, having not lost since late March. In the 37 days since their last loss, the Riverhawks have scored 26 goals and allowed just two. Ridgeline, which will square off against No. 2 Dixie in next Tuesday’s semifinal round, hasn’t allowed a goal in more than five games (last goal allowed was in a 2-1 win over Mountain Crest on April 16).
OTHER PLAYOFF MATCHES
A second consecutive season with three Cache Valley teams in the semifinals was not to be. No. 5 Mountain Crest lost in heartbreaking fashion to No. 4 Desert Hills, 1-0, while No. 10 Sky View was eliminated by No. 2 Dixie, 4-0. Top-seeded Crimson Cliffs (14-2) also punched its ticket to the round of four with a 3-2 triumph over No. 8 Pine View (9-9).
It was sweet revenge for Desert Hills, which lost to Mountain Crest in a wild 5-4 playoff match a year ago. The Thunder (12-5), who extended their winning streak to eight, scored in the waning seconds of the second half on a one-time strike from 20 yards out by Gage Lewis. Mustang goalkeeper Jackson Oakey seemingly punched a Desert Hills corner kick out of danger, but it went right to Lewis, who finished in impressive fashion.
Mountain Crest (12-6) had several dangerous scoring chances, according to St. George Spectrum & Daily News reporter Sean Ellertson. For starters, Gabe Newman got behind the Desert Hills backline in the opening half, but pushed his one-v-one opportunity wide by a matter of inches. The Mustangs also had a redirected free kick carom off the crossbar, plus Desert Hills keeper Shayden Scott made big saves on shots by Sam Hunt and Davin Ritchie after halftime.
Oakey also came through with some crucial saves for the Mustangs, Ellertson said. Indeed, Mountain Crest was oh so close to advancing to the semifinals for the three straight time.
Meanwhile, Dixie (12-3) scored twice in each half in its victory over Sky View (7-10). The Bobcats were aiming for their third appearance in a row to the semifinals or better.
“Rough day today,” SV interim head coach Kasey Erickson said. “I still feel like we had a good season. Through all the ups and downs, these boys were resilient. I’m so proud of them for taking care of each other through the trials they’ve faced. They could have folded through the adversity and instead they doubled their wins and halved their losses in the second half of the season. I’m thankful for them for working hard and representing Sky View so well. We’ve always used the cheer ‘family,’ and they truly are.”
HJ sports writer Jason Turner contributed to this report