Editor’s note: This is the 11th of an 11-part series profiling various spring high school sports in Cache Valley and recognizing the seniors from those teams.
The 2019 high school boys soccer season was a banner one for teams from Cache Valley.
After all, Sky View captured its first state championship in 15 years, Mountain Crest advanced to the semifinals of the 4A tournament and Logan to the quarterfinals. Additionally, Green Canyon and Ridgeline made substantial strides from the previous season.
All five of these programs had high expectations for the 2020 campaign, which was shaping up to be a very intriguing one. Unfortunately for these local athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the season well before Region 12 play even started.
Here is a breakdown of each Cache County boys soccer program:
The Bobcats graduated four all-state performers, including co-Herald Journal All-Valley MVPs Jonathan Bergeson and Ty Erickson, but the cupboard was certainly not bare in Smithfield. Sky View brought back two of the valley’s top defenders in Hunter Smith and Davis Hall, a talented midfielder in Kai Schwartz, and two proven goal scorers in Kaysen Hyde and Caden Penrose.
“Our team goals were to repeat as region and state champions,” SV head coach Jorge Cruz said. “I feel like I had a very competitive team and realistically I was hoping to at least repeat as region champs.”
Smith, a first-team all-state selection, and Hall anchored a stout Sky View backline last spring. The Bobcats only conceded one goal in four state tournament matches and posted eight shutouts during the season.
The Bobcats were once again looking stingy defensively this spring as they only allowed two goals in four matches. All of Sky View’s games were against opponents from larger classifications, and the Bobcats beat everyone with the exception of Hunter (1-0 overtime loss).
The future appears to be bright for the Bobcats, who only have three seniors in Smith, Hyde and Prince Gaye.
“The Sky View boys soccer program was very disappointed we could not finish our soccer season, but on the other hand we are all very happy for the wise decision because our health should always come first,” said Cruz, who went on to praise his seniors and talk about their strengths as players and individuals. “... For my three senior players, I feel very bad for because maybe the offers from colleges weren’t there yet, but I think one or two of them were good enough to play at the next level, and I know how much they really wanted to play their senior season.”
Sky View has already honored its seniors with a “23-car drive-by parade,” during which Gaye, Hyde and Smith received a gift, Cruz said.
In addition to the trio of seniors, Sky View’s other starters were Cordell Ludlow, Hall, Schwartz, Cole Thedell, Jackson Sundstrom, Preston High School transfer Jakobi Dursteler, Isaac Larson and Penrose. Eduardo Valles and Tate Thurston were two other Bobcats with significant varsity experience. Thurston netted the game-winning goal against defending champion Desert Hills last year’s 4A title match.
Sky View’s captains were Schwartz, Penrose and Smith.
“A big thank you to Principal Mike Monson and AD Ryan Grunig for all the support they provide not only for me, but for the entire Sky View community,” said Cruz, who went on to thank his assistant coaches and the SV trainer by name.
The Wolves were one of the most improved teams in 4A a year ago, and they were poised to take another step forward in 2020. Green Canyon welcomed back most of its top players from last spring that beat region runner-up Logan and drew with Sky View.
“I feel that realistically our region was going to be represented really well,” GC head coach Sven Rasmussen said. “I think all of the valley schools thought that they could go pretty far. I expected either first or second (place) in the region (for us). This was the first year that we actually were senior heavy. Every other year we’ve only had three seniors. ... This year was the best boys varsity team we’ve ever coached. Not trying to take away from the great players I’ve coached before, but in terms of togetherness this group sure was special.”
The Wolves definitely performed like legitimate region title contenders in the preseason as they went 3-0 against 4A opponents and shut out all three of them, including an eye-popping 14-0 shellacking of Pine View on the road. Green Canyon’s other two matches were one-goal setbacks to teams from larger classifications.
Green Canyon’s senior class was comprised of eight athletes in Alex Arias, Franky Espinoza, Case Gehring, Hunter Holt, Armando Mora, Elijah Huber, Roy Mendoza and future Snow College player Wesley Castro. Cragun, Gehring and Holt were the captains, along with junior Porter Cragun.
“(These seniors) mean an awful lot because they saw where we were (two years ago) and they’ve pushed and they’ve wanted it, and the whole reason why we are where we are is because this group of boys basically said we are a lot better than this,” Rasmussen said. “And they’ve worked and they’ve done a ton of stuff on their own. I have several guys who have put in so much work on their own. Again, I wish it was within my power to make this virus go away so these guys could experience their senior year.”
Rasmussen plans on putting together something for his 12th-graders in the near future, “kind of small, more intimate stuff with our seniors, but I think all of our underclassmen have reached out to our seniors and have expressed their feelings to them.”
The head coach felt he had one of the best center back tandems in 4A in Holt and Arias. Rasmussen was anticipating breakout seasons from Mendoza and Castro, who was beset by injuries his previous two prep seasons.
In addition to the seniors and Cragun, Green Canyon’s other primary varsity players were Jace Blotter, Roli Gallart, Nikk Perkes, Angel Torres, two-year starting keeper Jake Von Niederhausern, John Whitby and Baldo Chavez.
Mendoza, Chavez, Cragun, Holt and Von Niederhausern received some sort of all-valley recognition last season.
Logan’s 2019 senior class was very talented, but the Grizzlies still welcomed back five starters, plus they are legitimate region title contenders year in and year out.
“Realistically, we were hoping to contend for the region title and then make a deep run into the state playoffs,” Logan head coach Natalie Norris said. “We saw a lot of potential with the team that we had and were really looking forward to seeing how we came together. We also had a lot of upperclassmen who were seeing varsity time for the first time, and they had stepped up really well.”
The Grizzlies were able to play three matches before the season was halted and they scored multiple goals in two of them. Senior Nate Perez, who has been an impact performer at the varsity level since he was a freshman, accounted for three of those goals. Perez missed much of his junior season with an injury.
Perez was one of 11 seniors on Logan’s roster. He was joined by Manny Mendez, Hunter West, Fernando Chavez, Blayze Keckler, Marshall Baker, Johan Velazquez, Eddie Escobar, Deondre Garfias, Neyen Ayala and Dylan Long. Logan’s captains were Mendez, Chavez and Velazquez.
“I’ve been with these seniors for most of their careers and it sincerely crushed me to have to tell them their season was over,” Norris said. “So many of them had waited their entire career to play varsity because we had such a large senior class last year, and to see that get cut short was devastating. These seniors have given so much to Logan High and the soccer program, and it still hurts thinking about how unfortunate all of this was, especially for them. I love these guys and am so sad to see them go, especially this way.”
Norris was able to recognize these athletes with personal hand-written notes and a senior gift, “but nothing that could rival a true Senior Night.”
Velazquez, Baker, Long — who was splitting varsity minutes in goal with junior Chris Calvillo — and Chavez were honorable mention all-valley selections a year ago. Chavez has been one of the Grizzlies’ top players since he was a sophomore.
Norris was anticipating breakout seasons from guys like Mendez, West, Keckler, Escobar, Udy Marquez and Fredy Mejia.
“They made a huge impact in the first three games we had, and I was so impressed and so pumped to see how things would play out,” Norris said.
Other Grizzlies who were starting or playing significant varsity minutes were sophomore Andy Martinez and freshman Isaac Lopez.
The Riverhawks brought back seven starters from a side that defeated Mountain Crest and took Sky View to double overtime. Indeed, Ridgeline was primed to take another step forward this spring.
“We spent a lot of time in the offseason in the weight room and working on individual technical work, speed of play and processing speed to make good decisions at the right time during play,” Ridgeline head coach Dale Buchanan said. “Our region is very competitive year after year and we expected to compete well against our valley opponents. ... We fully expected to use this season to compete with vigor and purpose in the hopes of challenging for a deep state run, as well as strengthen the team for next year’s core.”
Ridgeline put together another challenging preseason schedule this spring as three of its first four games were against 5A or 6A opponents. The silver lining for the Riverhawks is they should be good a year from now as they are only losing a trio of seniors in Britton Campbell, Joshua Harrison and Rylund Robinson.
“With two preseason games left to go, one of which was the home opener against Lone Peak High School, we were devastated to have to announce the news of a quarantine, but were hopeful that the season would resume at some point,” Buchanan said. “When we received word that the season for all spring sports was officially canceled, we were saddened at how our seniors in particular would feel about the loss of their final season. I am amazed and impressed continually by their strength and character. They have been so positive with their teammates and have offered great leadership to those that will take their place next year. They handled every day the way that their parents and coaches can only respect.”
Buchanan is looking forward to honoring his seniors, with the Beehive State now relaxing its health guidelines. The head coach praised the Ridgeline administration and athletic director Mike Hansen for their “support and care for each and every student, student-athlete and especially with our senior class.”
Ridgeline’s returning starters were Johan Salome, Ethan Green, Jackson Hulse, Rylund Robinson, Britton Campbell, Riley Garvert, Tate Godfrey. Garvert, a sophomore keeper, was a honorable mention all-valley selection a year ago.
Buchanan was also expecting significant contributions from Luke Dustin, Karim Salome, Garrett Jenkins, Bowen Haueter, Sam Pirtle, Maximus Maile, Grady Workman, Daxon Flygare, Gabe Watson, Trent Godfrey and Dillan Walton this season.
Things were looking very promising for the Mustangs, who brought back seven returning starters from the 4A semifinal side. Another starter, first-team all-valley honoree Ty Smith, injured his ACL right before the season kicked off, and head coach Justin Beus asserted “he was our best player.”
“We have a really competitive region up here in Cache Valley, with great coaches and great players, (so) you cannot overlook anyone,” said Beus, who was in his first season at the Mustang helm. “We had huge goals this year. These boys played in the semifinals last year and left with a bad taste in their mouth. We were planning on starting with winning region and finishing our season on (Real Salt Lake’s) field (in the 4A championship game).”
Mountain Crest was able to compete in a valley-best seven matches before the season came to a halt. The Mustangs went 4-3, recorded a pair of clean sheets and only allowed one goal in four other games.
The Mustangs were led by a large senior class — 12 of them in Ethan Baker, Riley Farmer, Zackary Florence, Treyson Harris, Jaydn McBride, Rylan Myers, Casey Myers, Chase Oakey, Dillon Poppleton, Connor Willie, Cameron Wright and Smith.
McBride, Oakey, Wright and Smith were the captains. McBride, Mountain Crest’s dynamic keeper, was an honorable mention all-valley honoree as a junior.
Beus was able to give his 12th-graders some closure with a recent Tuesday night ceremony, followed by a scrimmage.
“This particular group of seniors mean the world to me,” Beus said. “I have been with them the last four years and watched them accomplish truly amazing things on and off the field. Here at Mountain Crest we truly are family. Mountain Crest is being represented well by sending these amazing young men out to world. Telling them the season was over was devastating. It was like it wasn’t real. This season was going to be the capstone of their high school soccer careers and suddenly it was gone.”
Beus was expecting big things from his entire senior class.
“They have been playing together for years and knew there wasn’t anyone they couldn’t beat with their heart and team chemistry,” he said.
Several of the seniors were starters. Other starters for the Mustangs were Zane Allen, Jaxon Maughan, Gideon Newman, Gabriel Newman and Oliver Thompson. Maughan and Newman are sophomores and have the opportunity of being three-year varsity mainstays for Mountain Crest.