After taking down No. 6 Crimson Cliffs last week in a penalty shootout (4-3), No. 11 Ridgeline kept its Cinderella-like playoff run going by upsetting No. 3 Dixie in a 2-0 road victory on Wednesday.
The Riverhawks scored two goals on penalty kicks in the first half and goalkeeper Riley Garvert blocked a Dixie penalty kick late in the game to preserve the shutout and send Ridgeline into the 4A semifinals.
“It’s a great feeling to be moving on,” said Ridgeline senior Jackson Hulse. “Winning on penalty kicks isn’t the ideal way to win, but we’re excited to advance and to keep playing.”
Added Ridgeline head coach Dale Buchanan: “Dixie is a very talented team and we knew it was going to be a battle. They are a fast and physical team, and so we used a high press attack to slow them down and to try and make things difficult for them. It was a total team effort. We rotated a lot of guys in to keep everyone fresh and I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
Tate Godfrey got things going for the Riverhawks, as the senior calmly stepped up and converted a penalty kick late in the first half. The senior faked left before sending the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
A couple minutes later, Dixie was called for another foul in the box, giving Ridgeline another penalty kick. This time, Hulse stepped up and converted it to give the Riverhawks a 2-0 lead over the Region 9 champs in the 38th minute.
Players and coaches credited last week’s penalty shootout win for Wednesday’s success.
“Oh, it absolutely helped,” said Hulse. “I had more confidence in myself and was able to step up and hit my spot.”
“We practice for these types of situations, but it’s no substitute for game experience,” added Buchanan. “It goes a long way, and last week certainly prepared us for today.”
Dixie had a bunch of opportunities and chances to score, but the Flyers couldn’t convert. Jorge Quintero had the best chance, as the striker blasted a left-footed shot 20 yards out. The ball slipped past Garvert, but it hit the post and bounced out. Senior midfielder Rene Bernal gathered the rebound, but his shot sailed just over the top of the crossbar.
“Last week certainly prepared us for today.” — Ridgeline head coach Dale Buchanan
The Flyers had several excellent chances to score in the second half as well, but Garvert was there each time to make the save for the Riverhawks.
“Riley is an excellent keeper and has been playing varsity since he was a freshman,” said Buchanan. “He’s always calm under pressure, focused and happy.”
That calmness was on full display in the 70th minute as the junior saved a penalty kick to preserve the shutout.
“I was just confident in myself and knew I could do it,” he said. “It was a big relief after I blocked it. Luckily I had a lot of practice last week, which helped.”
“Last week against Crimson Cliffs Riley had three penalty saves,” added Buchanan. “One got called back, but he still managed to save two penalty kicks which is just remarkable. He’s a big reason why we got the shutout today and kept the momentum in our favor.”
With the win, the Riverhawks will take on Mountain Crest in what will be an all-Region 11 showdown. The two teams split during the regular season and the winner on Monday will earn a spot in the 4A state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Buchanan. “We are both very familiar with each other and I know our guys will be looking forward to it.”