NORTH LOGAN — Prior to their regular season finale, the Wolves honored eight seniors — a senior group that took their lumps when they were freshmen back in the spring of 2018.
Most of those eight players were varsity starters or at least contributors as freshmen on a Green Canyon boys soccer team that went 3-12-0. To their credit, the Wolves have made substantial strides since their inaugural season, and those eight athletes were ultimately able to see the payoff three seasons later.
Green Canyon performed like a well-oiled machine in the first half and held off a strong Logan challenge in the second half to prevail 2-1 in front of a nice crowd on a windy Tuesday night. In the process, the Wolves shared the Region 11 title with Sky View — their first region championship in program history.
“When we were first starting out, our first year, I mean you could ask anybody on the soccer team and it was not fun, we were bad,” GC senior center back Jace Blotter said. “And just knowing that kids my age, kids that graduated last year and the kids that are going to graduate next year, just seeing them go out and train and put in the work, it just gives you a confidence in one another. And then to put in on the field, oh man, it’s just indescribable.”
The Wolves (13-3, 8-2 region) took advantage of a considerable tailwind in the opening half and put the Grizzlies (4-11, 3-7) under immediate pressure. Case in point: Green Canyon fired off nine shots during the first 11 minutes of action and forced Logan goalkeeper Chris Calvillo to came up big for his team, including an outstanding punch save over the crossbar on a rocket of a strike by Roli Gallart.
Logan was able to weather the storm, which had head coach Natalie Norris feeling “relieved because they came at us hard and they came at us really well.” Just when it appeared the Grizzlies were gaining a little momentum, Gallart converted on a free kick from well outside the 18-yard box in the 22nd minute.
Green Canyon struck again nine minutes later on a Porter Cragun penalty kick. Calvillo was able to save Cragun’s initial shot from the penalty spot, but the senior was awarded a re-kick when the AR ruled Calvillo moved forward off his line.
“I think that was probably the best I’ve seen this group play,” GC head coach Sven Rasmussen said. “That first half was lightning. I mean, the connectivity, the combination play was just wow. That’s all I really had to say to the at halftime was just wow. ... Logan is a good side, for sure. They made us battle for it in the second half, so credit to them.”
The Wolves outshot the Grizzlies 14-3 in the first half and enjoyed a 5-1 edge in corner kicks. Logan did have a couple of good scoring opportunities — the second of which was a open shot inside the 18 by Sidon Abai that went right to Green Canyon keeper Ryan Scott.
Logan had the wind at its back after halftime, plus was able to piece together much more possession than it did in the early going. The Grizzlies outshot the Wolves 9-4 in the second half and pulled a goal back midway through the half on a well-taken penalty kick by standout defender Isaac Morales.
Indeed, the Grizzlies made the Wolves earn the victory and there’s no question they are a much better side than the one that started the season with a 1-6 record.
“We’ve come extremely far,” Norris said. “We’re a much different team than we were at the beginning of region play. We’ve been struggling with inconsistency and we saw a little bit of that tonight, but the second half we came back and fought like I needed us to fight, so that is what I’m looking forward to going into state.”
Nevertheless, Scott, who is filling in for the injured Jake Von Nedierhausern, was able to command his box well and make four saves after halftime to help ice the win. The sophomore came through with an acrobatic save on a shot from distance by Udy Marquez in the 77th minute.
Green Canyon will be one of the favorites, along with Sky View, at the 4A State Championships, which gets underway Friday. All of the Region 11 teams with the exception of Logan and Bear River should have first first-round byes.
“I’m kind of blown away, honestly,” Rasmussen said. “The boys really came together as a group and I’m just crazy proud of them. We’ve asked them to do things they’re not used to doing, to play a style they’re not used to playing, and to have the buy-in of the boys was huge. This has definitely been a work in progress. I think our first year we only won three games and this year we’ve only lost three games, so it’s been a work in progress, and I can’t do it alone. My family support and then my coaches and my boys, it’s been awesome. They’re a great group.”
Sky View (11-4, 8-2) held off Mountain Crest (10-6, 5-5) at home, 2-1, while Ridgeline (9-7, 6-4) dispatched of visiting Bear River, 4-1. Like the Wolves, the Bobcats and Riverhawks were able to sweep the season series with their respective foes.
Cole Thedell scored twice for the Bobcats early in the first half. The junior’s first goal was assisted by Caleb Miller and the second one by Caden Penrose.
Davin Ritchie pared Mountain Crest’s deficit in half in the 25th minute when he converted on a pass from Oliver Thompson.
“We started the way we planned and goals came quick,” said SV head coach Jorge Cruz, whose team will take a four-match winning streak into the state tournament. “Again, we created many opportunities from different players, combined well and it’s too bad we didn’t score more in the first half. Second half we started the same way as the first half and continued with our game plan, but MC pushed numbers and the final 20 minutes Mountain Crest was knocking on our door. They did create opportunities to equalize, but our defense has been very strong all season and we were able to come out the results we worked for.
“Our first team goal was accomplished and now back to work so we can be ready for the state tournament and do what it takes to accomplish our next team goal. Thank you to my coaches for all they do for me and the program.”
Meanwhile, the Riverhawks buried a pair of shots in each half against the Bears (0-14, 0-10), who got a second-half goal from Izzie Varela. Ridgeline had four different goal scorers in Jackson Hulse, Gabriel Watson, Diego Vazquez and Ethan Green. Daxton Flygare facilitated on the first Riverhawk goal and Tate Godfrey on the second.
“Bear River battles every minute each game and they defended well tonight,” RHS head coach Dale Buchanan said. “We always look forward to region matches and tonight was another great one for both teams. There were some great goals put together tonight following a series of quality passes.”