SALT LAKE CITY — According to head coach Shawn Kennedy, as well as his team’s semi-official roster, the Skyline Eagles boys soccer team is quite young.
Including junior varsity, the Eagles boast just eight seniors, compared to 10 juniors, 16 sophomores and six freshmen.
Nowhere on the roster is that youth more evident than at defensive back.
“Our back four are still pretty young,” said Kennedy. “We only have one senior, and the rest are juniors and sophomores.”
If their performance against the Brighton Bengals Tuesday afternoon at Skyline High School is any indication, the youthful Eagles are much better than their age, or lack thereof, would suggest.
Jensen finished with two goals, including a second-half volley from well outside the box that drifted just over the outstretched hands of Brighton goalkeeper Harrison Nuttall.
Spikner’s score, notched in the first half, was no less impressive, as he weaved his way through the Brighton defense and then drilled the ball off the underside of the crossbar, beating goalie Thomas Jensen (the Bengals swapped goalkeepers at halftime).
The story of the game, however, was the play of the Eagles fullbacks.
From the outset, Brighton appeared the stronger side. The Bengals' midfield in particular looked dominant, and as such, the visitors maintained possession for much of the opening half.
Despite possessing the ball an inordinate amount, Brighton could not muster a shot on goal for the first 37 minutes of the game. With just three minutes remaining in the first half, Bengals junior Alex Fankhauser finally got a shot off, only to have it blocked by Skyline keeper Tommy Jensen.
The credit for such an impressive defensive performance fell squarely on the shoulders of the Skyline defensive backs, most notably Garrett Powell and Sam Iman, among others.
“They have just been fantastic,” said Kennedy of his back four. “They have been a real positive to the whole team.
“What we like is that they’ll really cover well for each other, they play for each other,” Kennedy continued. “They are very optimistic. They don’t get down. If something goes wrong, there is no condemning of the team or themselves, which is surprising for defenders. Defenders usually struggle if something goes wrong. They have just been really resilient.”
Kennedy had his defensive backs playing up the field against the Bengals as well, a testament to the confidence he has in them.
“Brighton is an outstanding team and has a great group of kids that handle the ball well. We just didn’t want them to turn and get the space. We were just trying to shut down the space from them,” said Kennedy.
While its defense played lights out, the Eagles' attack made the most of its few chances.
Jensen netted his first goal just eight minutes into the contest when he snuck the ball past Brighton’s Jensen almost from the end line.
Spikner’s goal came with just eight minutes remaining in the half, a scoring drought that only provided further evidence of the Bengals’ control of the midfield.
After Jensen scored his second goal, just three minutes into the second half, the Eagles had more than enough points for the victory.
“The goals Jake scored were absolutely terrific,” said Kennedy. “Those are things you just hope for. We haven’t really had a lot of practice so far, but the forwards are a good combination. They play well off each other. They support one another. They feel really comfortable. I think that is the key in high school.”
Up next for Skyline is another home contest, this one against the Hunter Wolverines on Friday at 3:30 p.m., while Brighton hosts the Provo Bulldogs.