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High school boys soccer: Patient Morgan pulls away from Emery in 3A semis, setting up title game showdown with rival Judge Memorial

Emery High School’s Marko Iliijic and Morgan High Schoo’s Kade Buchanan compete iin the 3A semifinals at Juan Diego High School.
Emery Spartan Marko Ilijic (16) and Morgan Trojan Kade Buchanan (21) fight for the ball during a 3A semifinal game of soccer between the Emery Spartans and Morgan Trojansat Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper on Monday, May 17, 2021.
Annie Barker, Deseret News

Patient was the name of the game for top-seeded Morgan in Monday’s 3A semifinals against surprising semifinalist Emery.

Coach Seth Wallace told his players Emery would mostly pack it in defensively — which it did — and would be a difficult team to break down — which it was — but stressed that with patience, the scoring opportunities would come.

Sure enough, after a grind of a first half in which Morgan scored just once on a defensive miscue from Emery, it proceeded to tack on three more goals in the final 25 minutes to pull away for the 4-0 win at Juan Diego High School.

“We had to be really patient. They really packed it in defensively and we knew they were going to try and do that. It makes it hard to get opportunities and shots on goal, but we were just patient and waited for our chances,” Wallace said.

Rory Williams, Cole Terry, Isaac Lowder and Owen Tolman all scored goals to pace Morgan to Tuesday’s 3A title game, where it will face Judge Memorial at Rio Tinto Stadium at 4 p.m.

No. 6-seed Judge Memorial advanced to the final by virtue of a 3-1 win over No. 2-seed Delta.

This year’s group of Morgan seniors were all freshmen when the school lost in the state championship game at Zions Bank Stadium on the campus of RSL Academy back in 2018 to Judge Memorial, 1-0. Four years later they’ll look for redemption against Judge, and this time they get to play on the pristine field at the RioT.

“We’re just excited to have the opportunity to be there. It’s a beautiful field. We play well on grass. Our home field is grass — not as smooth as Rio Tinto — so we’re just excited about the opportunity to play on a professional field and just the whole atmosphere,” said Wallace. “It’s something these guys have been fighting for for four years.”

Morgan struck first in the 15th minute as Williams scored on a shot from distance that was misplayed by Emery’s keeper.

“That first goal is always a big boost for us. Takes off a lot of pressure, especially for that one. That kid has been out for three weeks with COVID. That was his first goal in quite a while, so it was good to have him get back on the scoresheet,” said Wallace.

Morgan continued to dictate play with the 1-0 lead during the remainder of the first half, but the final ball to break down Emery’s defense never came as the lead remained just one goal until halftime.

Early in the first half, Emery had its best chance at an equalizer as Alejandro Noriega sprinted past four Morgan players for a breakaway chance with the keeper, but his shot was corralled easily.

It was one of the only tests for Morgan’s defense, which has shut out nine opponents during its current 11-game winning streak.

“Our defensive has been fantastic all year. Our center backs play on some of the best teams in the state, and they don’t get the recognition cause we’re usually blowing teams out,” said Wallace.

In the 55th minute, the Trojans finally doubled their advantage as Terry tapped in a loose ball in front of goal that pinged around after a corner kick. Lowder increased the lead to 3-0 in the 68th minute on a great bit of individual skill in the box for his team-leading 16th goal.

Tolman finished things off in the 76th minute as he fired a close-range shot that ricocheted in after an initial save by Emery’s keeper.