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Brighton a slight favorite in Region 2 soccer

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Through the first 15 games of the preseason, Region 2's six teams are undefeated, compiling a 12-0-3 record.

The region will be extremely tough, and only three teams will qualify for state. Brighton, which hasn't won a state championship recently, has been very successful in region play and looks to be the team to beat in Region 2.

For the past six years, Brighton has won the Region 2 title five times and tied for first place once. This year, the Bengals are looking for more. Senior leaders and captains Mike Nielsen and Travis Barton have been four-year starters, which is unusual in the Brighton program. Nielsen thinks this is the year the Bengals are going all the way.

Russ Boyer, the Brighton coach who has engineered much of the program's recent success, downplays goals for state championships.

"We're looking to compete for the region and the state championship," he said.

The Bengals graduated eight players from last year's squad, but there is plenty of firepower coming back. For example, at goalie, Nate Stoven and Patxi Shortsleeve have been splitting time and both are solid. Boyer says one might eventually emerge as the main keeper, but at this point, they both deserve playing time.

Tim Herzog has scored two goals so far this year but both have been off of dead-ball kicks. Herzog is known more for his defense, as are Spencer Burnside and Mike Hanna.

Boyer prefers team balance and hopes the scoring will be spread around.

"We have great guys coming off the bench," Boyer said. Playing at the center midfielder position, Nielsen sees the ball a lot and he revels in his dribbling skills.

"I like to dribble and make defenders look foolish said Nielsen, who has signed with the University of Portland.

Also in the middle, Barton likes to make things happen. "I'm the playmaker," he said, "I like to make my teammates better."

Besides having skilled players and a successful junior varsity program, Boyer said the Brighton program has been built by dedication and work.

"Our players are willing to work hard," he said.

Region 2 boys soccer

BRIGHTON BENGALS:

COACH: Russ Boyer

LAST YEAR: 11-5-2, lost in state quarterfinals.

OUTLOOK: They will be led by captains Mike Nielsen and Travis Barton. Both players have started for four years. Nate Stoven and Patxi Shortsleeve will split time at goalie. The defense will be anchored by Tim Herzog, Spencer Burnside and Mike Hanna.

PREDICTED 2008 FINISH: First

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JORDAN BEETDIGGERS:

COACH: Shane Herrin

LAST YEAR: 16-4, won state championship

OUTLOOK: Despite losing six starters, Jordan High returns reigning 5A MVP Jake Hustedt and will aim to defend its 5A state championship.

"We should be competitive," said coach Shane Herrin, "We hope to peak at the right time."

Jake Rogers, a senior, will keep goal for the Beetdiggers. Senior Winston Haycock will man the center midfield position. Newcomer Nate Villegas has already stepped up and scored four goals in two games for Jordan He is a freshman.

Hustedt is aware that his role will be different this year. Last year he and Marco Angelo could work in tandem.

"This year we will have to involve more kids in the play." he said. "I just want to have fun and see if we can win another state championship."

PREDICTED 2008 FINISH: Second

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ALTA HAWKS

COACH: Lee Mitchell

LAST YEAR: 5-10-1, lost in first round of state tournament

OUTLOOK: The Hawks are looking to rebound from last year, which was a difficult year by Alta's standards. Coach Lee Mitchell is pleased with how is team is playing early in the season. He did mention the loss of a top defender in Jared Fehr, who is out for the season due to an ACL injury from football.

Returning seniors Richard Harrison and Cory Tanner are two experienced players who may lead the team in scoring but Mitchell expects he will see a balanced scoring ledger rather than a single standout.

Kevin Michels, Nate Middleton and Kirk Logan are a couple of other experienced players who he expects to contribute. Goalie Adam Frogley started last year as a sophomore and that experience will help shore up the defense.

PREDICTED 2008 FINISH: Third

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SKYLINE EAGLES

COACH: Alan Jones

LAST YEAR: 6-8-0, did not qualify for state tournament

OUTLOOK: First year coach Alan Jones plans to add stability to the Eagles soccer program. He is the team's fourth coach in six years.

Elected as team captain is Kody King, a senior, who Jones says is a leader both on and off the field. He scored the only goal in a win against arch-rival Olympus in a preseason contest.

Defender Ian Crossett is a solid, energetic player.

Through the first three games, Skyline is 2-0-1 and goalie Maziar Nourian has not been scored on. In beating Juan Diego 3-2, Jones experimented with other goalies in the second half.

Last year's starting sweeper, Nils Lofgren, has been asked to play outside midfielder this year by Jones. He is proving to be a dangerous threat on offense.

PREDICTED 2008 FINISH: Fourth

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TAYLORSVILLE WARRIORS

COACH: Cred Healy

LAST YEAR: 11-8, lost in state semifinals

OUTLOOK: Last year was the best year ever for Taylorsville soccer as the Warriors lost in the state semifinals to eventual champion Jordan. It won't be easy to advance that far this year.

"We are a young team, but we have good talent," said first-year coach Cred Healy, who served as an assistant coach last year.

Last year's leading scorer, Derek Jensen, returns along with Luis Almanaci, who was the team leader in assists. Goalie Todd West was "phenomenal" last year as a freshman, said Healy. Casey Ashby is the stopper and he also returns with team captain Matt Lusty.

"Our goal is to work hard and grow together as a team," said Healy. PREDICTED 2008 FINISH: Fifth

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HILLCREST HUSKIES

COACH: Brett Davies

LAST YEAR: 5-10, did not qualify for the state tournament

OUTLOOK: Hillcrest is looking to improve on last year's sixth-place finish in Region 2.

"We are focused on the idea that we want a team effort," said coach Brett Davies. "We finished last year with a win over Jordan and we want to build on that."

Returning as captains are Kip Critchlow and Jack Kunkler. Critchlow was last year's leading scorer and Kunkler anchored the defense. Goalie Chris Jessen returns having been named as a second-team all-region pick last year.

"We want to play as a family," Davis said.

PREDICTED 2008 FINISH: Sixth