Luck plays a prominent role in competition, perhaps more so in soccer than any other sport.
Good luck and bad luck followed Skyridge boys soccer in their quest for the program’s first state championship.
The good luck happened in the first half, when a shot by Jake Jensen clipped the bottom of the crossbar and found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead against undefeated Weber, a team that had allowed just two goals in 18 previous matches.
The bad luck changed the game when a Weber cross deflected off a Skyridge defender and into the goal to tie the score at 1-1 in the second half.
The two teams battled through two overtimes and the decision came down to a shootout. Bad luck showed up again at a critical moment when Ian Neilsen’s shot deflected off the crossbar and away, giving the Warriors a 4-3 shootout win in the Class 6A title game.
“It was 100 minutes of just giving their guts out,” Skyridge coach Jerry Preisendorf said. “You can’t fault them for that. We had a mistake and that’s soccer. That game was the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We’ve just got to pick our heads up and move on.”
Falcons goalkeeper Cole Barker started the shootout with an apparent save but the referee ruled he had moved off his line early, giving Carson Karras another attempt that he slotted for a score. Later, Barker stoned Quayd Berry’s shot to give Skyridge an edge.
Nick Saunders, Austin Wallace and Seth James all converted their kicks in the shootout for the Falcons.
Tied at 3-3, Weber goalkeeper Stockton Short came up big with a block of Jensen’s attempt. Weber’s Juan Jimenez scored to give his team a 4-3 advantage and the Skyridge miss put an end to a very competitive matchup.
The Falcons completely outplayed the Warriors in the first half, holding possession and controlling the game. Three passes across the 18-yard line ended up with Jensen, who pounded the ball high off the crossbar for a 1-0 lead at the 23:50 mark of the first half.
“Jake put it on his weak foot and into the back of the net,” Preisendorf said. “It was ‘bing, bang boom.’ But I didn’t think that would be the end of it.”
Weber got the equalizing on an unlucky bounce at early in the second half and neither team was able to gain an advantage through the rest of the second half and the two overtimes. Daxon Watts of Skyridge had a open shot that went just wide of the net midway through the second half and Weber nearly took the lead when Jayden Norfords blasted one that clipped the left upright. A terrific defensive play by Anders Houghton kept the Warriors from taking the lead late in the half.
“We didn’t get back to possessing,” Wallace said. “In the first half we found it and that’s how we got the goal. When we’re not keeping the ball we’re not a good team and just like any other. We’re special when we keep that ball and that didn’t happen too much in the second half. Then it ended up being a toss up with PKs.”
Weber (19-0-0) had a little added incentive to bring home the school’s third state title: Coach Jan Swift told them before they drove to Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday that he was retiring.
When the Warriors fell behind, Swift said he saw that his team was not rattled.
“They were calm and collected,” he said. “That’s been the keystone all year. They don’t panic on the ball and that’s crucial. They just went about business as usual.”
Skyridge — which opened in 2017 — finished with a 16-5-0 record and has established itself as one of the state’s top programs.
“These boys and these seniors are about as classy as you can get,” Preisendorf said. “They are very inclusive and bring everybody in. They’re good leaders and good kids. I told them all year long that they were the best team in the state. I still think that they are. We just had to go to the PK mark, and that’s life.”
Wallace added, “I love these guys more than anything and I trust all of them so much. This journey has been everything. I’m so glad I could play my last game here of all places. You’ve got to be grateful for what you have.”