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Richfield outduels Manti in overtime

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EPHRAIM — With literally seconds remaining, Richfield's bid to win a region championship in its first season of sanctioned boys soccer came down to one kick of the ball.

Outplayed and trailing 3-2 since the 61st minute, things looked bleak for fifth-ranked Richfield when a lifeline arrived in the 80th minute via a penalty-kick call from the referee.

From the second the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot, there wasn't a doubt about who would take it. Richfield star forward Quaid Busk, the state's co-leading scorer, calmly approached the ball, composed himself and whacked it past the Manti keeper and in.

Teammate Luke Johnson nodded home the golden goal from point-blank range five minutes into overtime, and the Wildcats emerged with a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win over No. 4 Manti on Thursday.

"I was scared," Busk admitted afterward. "I was just nervous, but I just concentrated, I guess, (and) it went in."

With the victory, Richfield clinched the Region 13 title. The Wildcats finished as co-champions with Grand but will represent the league as the No. 1 seed by virtue of beating Grand in head-to-head competition.

Before Thursday's contest, coach Phillip Johnson challenged his players to accomplish something in their first year of competition that other teams at the school have previously accomplished — win region.

Job done.

"It's just nice for them to step up and understand that we're representing Richfield High School," said Johnson. "We're a first-year program (and) to win region — these guys will remember it for the rest of their lives ... I'm way excited for them. I can't even explain how excited I am."

Twice against Manti, Richfield had to come-from-behind and faced plenty of adversity. Twice, however, the Wildcats didn't panic and got back into the game.

The first occasion came toward the end of the first half. Richfield was actually the better side early, but the Templars came storming back and took a 2-0 lead through goals by junior forward Kenny Squire and Eduardo Nava.

Busk pulled a goal back for Richfield in the 35th minute, and he equalized just 37 seconds into the second half.

From there, Manti enjoyed more spells of possession and appeared to have the game when Squire scored his second goal in the 61st minute.

However, Busk completed his hat-trick and leveled the game with his penalty kick in the dying moments of regulation, and the Wildcats won it when Luke Johnson headed home the golden goal in the 85th minute.

Busk's three goals moved his season total to 28, and he is the state's co-leading scorer with Grand's Sebastian Roa.

"He's the go-to guy," coach Johnson said of Busk. On the other hand, Manti coach Gerald Wayman walked away disappointed with the result but happy with how his team played.

Squire was outstanding up top, Alma Knutsen controlled the midfield and a number of other Manti players shined.

"My kids played really good," said Wayman.

E-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com