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NO LONGER BRIDESMAIDS, BEETDIGGERS TAKE 3A TITLE

SHARE NO LONGER BRIDESMAIDS, BEETDIGGERS TAKE 3A TITLE

For Jordan High, the fourth time was the charm, and the Beetdiggers are bridesmaids no more.

After three second-place finishes, the `Diggers finally won their first state 3A soccer title with a thrilling 1-0 victory over defending champion Judge Memorial Friday night at Woods Cross High. For coach Bill Noble and the faithful Jordan fans, it finally ended a season of frustrations and setbacks.Consider that Jordan tied for second in tough Region Six, but was forced to forfeit six league wins when a player was ruled academically ineligible. That pushed the Beetdiggers to sixth in region, forcing Jordan to travel to Region Five champion Ben Lomond for an inter-region game.

But Jordan withstood that challenge, then shut out Lehi 3-0, edged Skyview 2-1 in a shootout Thursday, then held off Judge in Friday's final.

Both teams battled through a scoreless first half, as goalkeepers Matt Woolley of Judge and Ben Cowdell of Jordan each made some great saves. Judge looked like it would draw first blood when V.J. Berry broke away in the first period. His shot was saved by Cowdell, who raced far out of goal to stop it.

Woolley was also seriously challenged just before half when Jordan's Billy Shalz, one of the state's best, collided with him on a close shot in the box. Woolley managed to stop Shalz's shot, and the game was scoreless well into the second half.

Jordan dominated the first 30 minutes of the second half, the Beetdiggers missing at least nine decent shots on goal, including a header by Shalz and a liner by Adam Bentley that were both saved by Woolley. In the 28th minute, Sisouk Phouthavong of Jordan brought the ball down the center and took a shot that hit the crossbar. Judge fullback Chad Mellison, covering the goal for Woolley, who had hit the ground making a saving attempt, kicked the ball out to the left of the net. That's where Jordan's Jeremy Butler, a halfback who usually sets up Beetdigger scores and who had only tallied once all season, found the ball squarely at his feet. He buried a shot into the right corner of the net for the eventual game, and title, winner.

"That goal was for Coach Noble," the jubilant Butler said afterward. "It was the biggest thrill I've ever had, and we've worked hard to win this title."

But Judge wasn't quite done. Jordan's score seemed to fire up the Bulldog offense. Three times in the final 10 minutes, Judge looked poised to tie the game. Mike Beierschmitt drove on a breakaway that Cowdell managed to block and recover. With less than two minutes to go, Berry also had a breakaway shot that Cowdell dove hard to his left for and saved. In fact, Cowdell allowed only one goal in regulation in three tournament games, and in Thursday's shootout, Skyview was only able to connect on two of four penalty kicks.

"I've waited since 1979 for this," Noble said as his players mobbed him. "We overcame a lot this year. The forfeits killed us, but these kids never quit."

Considering Jordan tied with Alta, the team which won the 4A state title Friday as well, the Beetdiggers have reason to brag about being the best in the state. And after seven years of frustration in state tournaments, Jordan finally proved Friday night that, of things meant to be, they are soccer bridesmaids no more.