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The drought is over for Preston’s boys soccer program.

Parker Cromwell scored twice in the final 15 minutes of the second half to propel Preston to a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 victory over visiting Pocatello in the championship match of the 4A Fifth District Tournament on Wednesday. In the process, the Indians punched their ticket to the 4A State Championships for the first time since 2014.

“It’s awesome to be going (to state) after such a long time,” Preston head coach Kira Matthews said. “The boys this year have worked their guts out, especially with the rocky start that we had.”

Indeed, Preston has been very resilient after losing three straight games to fall to 3-5-1 at the midway point of the season. However, the top-seeded Indians have gone 7-0-1 ever since that rough stretch, including a trio of wins over Pocatello — the last team to beat Preston (10-5-2).

Preston had to overcome deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to emerge victorious Wednesday. Brayden Viterna equalized for Preston in the 19th minute, assisted by Talon Reese, but Pocatello scored a go-ahead goal one minute later. Bryan Bustos buried a penalty kick seven minutes into the second half to pull Preston even at 2-2, but Poky immediately bounced back with a goal less than two minutes later.

Blake Brown recorded a hat trick for the second-seeded Thunder (10-6-2) and netted 20 of his team’s 34 goals this season.

Just like he did in last Friday’s 3-1 triumph over Pocatello, Cromwell came through with a brace in the second half to provide the heroics for Preston. Bustos assisted on the game-winning goal.

“They are an extremely mentally tough group,” Matthews said of her players. “They were able to push through to the end and keep their heads up regardless of Poky getting a goal within a minute of our first two goals. And to believe in themselves enough to get two more goals and get the win (was awesome). It’s extremely gratifying as a coach to know you’ve pushed them to be their best physically and mentally, and for them to be able to go to state and show how good they are (means a lot).”

PRESTON GIRLS

Top-seeded Pocatello scored twice in the second half to pull away for a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Preston in the championship game of the district tourney. The Indians (5-12) needed to beat the Thunder (10-4-4) Wednesday and again Friday to have a chance to defend their 4A state title.

Samantha Palmer scored in the first half for Preston, which lost three times to Pocatello this season by a combined four goals.

“Kind of a reflection of the season,” Preston head coach Brandon Lyon said. “We played so well for the majority of the game, were on the front foot and creating so many good chances. But we had a 10-minute stretch late in the second half where we just had a couple breakdowns and, like has happened all season, (the opposition) capitalized. I’m so proud of the way the girls played, though, especially this last week. ... Our seniors have been great leaders and from the time they stepped on the field as freshmen, they have given everything to this program and school. They leave with a state championship and a strong legacy.”

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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