Editor’s note: Since being part of a high school sports team isn’t just about competing in scheduled events, the Daily Herald is going behind the scenes and telling a little bit of the stories of our 2020 spring athletic squads here in Utah Valley. To do that, we are having team captains describe their teams, talk about favorite experiences and relate lessons learned.

Soccer can be tough sometimes for a team when it feels like it dominated a game but the other side got the one break it needed to steal the outcome.

Salem Hills boys soccer junior captain Eli Johnson experienced that sentiment early in the 2020 season.

“Our last preseason game against Hunter was like that,” Johnson said in a phone interview earlier this week. “We had a bunch of shots, had more possession and played a really good, complete game. It came down to one little lapse. After the game we talked about how we played well but we had to ask ourselves if there was something more we could do.”

Although the team was disappointed with the outcome of the game against Hunter, Johnson said he sees it in a different light because efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 have impacted the soccer season in ways that certainly aren’t fair.

“Right now we are focused on staying positive and confident,” Johnson said. “We’re training and working to get through the hard times. No one was happy that we didn’t get the result against Hunter but we looked to the future and what we could learn. It’s the same with the coronavirus situation. It’s what can we learn from it and how is it going to make us better.”

He was confident that the 2020 season was going to be a good one for the Skyhawks.

“We put in a lot of work before and things were clicking really well,” Johnson said. “In the preseason we played great, so we were excited to get into region play. It’s unfortunate it has been postponed like it has.”

He said he felt the team was filled with athletes who really pushed themselves to improve.

“I feel like as a team we were more driven than we were in previous years,” Johnson said. “Everyone was more committed to succeeding. I think a lot of people are working harder.”

Salem Hills head coach Jerry Johnson said Eli Johnson has been a key element for the Skyhawks.

“Eli has always played up a couple of years,” Jerry Johnson said. “His freshman year on varsity, he was like the little brother that just kept nipping at your heels, pushing everyone to work harder. He had a breakout sophomore year, and was critical to our best record in program history. This year, as a junior, he has become a go-to leader, alongside outstanding captains Brandt Wilcox and Justin Christensen.”

Jerry Johnson praised Eli Johnson for how he sees the importance of every individual.

“Eli understands that every player on our roster is critical to this team’s success,” Jerry Johnson said. “He leads by example, constantly encouraging our boys to work harder, to give more, and to sacrifice for each other. The kid has a relentless work rate. He elevates play at every level. He is the kind of competitor that every successful program needs.”

Eli Johnson said he has felt more responsibility as a captain to make sure the other members of the Salem Hills team are staying upbeat even with the challenges.

“On our group text we have workouts that we do every day,” Eli Johnson said. “We fully expect we are going to have a season to come back. We are trying to stay as focused as we can be. We’d love to keep playing. We long for that moment where we can get back out there.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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