High school soccer: 11th-seeded Ridgeline gets yet another upset to claim the 4A state title
Just over 24 hours since Ridgeline sophomore Gabe Watson scored the game-winning goal in the 73rd minute of the semifinal matchup with Mountain Crest, Watson once again scored the game-winning goal in the championship game, this time in the 70th minute.
The odds had been stacked against both Stansbury and Ridgeline as they navigated their way through the 4A state boys soccer tournament.
Against all those odds, eighth-seeded Stansbury and 11th-seeded Ridgeline met in the final 4A game of the season Tuesday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. Ridgeline pulled off one final upset with a 2-1 victory over the Stallions to secure its second 4A state championship in the school’s young history.
Just over 24 hours since Ridgeline sophomore Gabe Watson scored the game-winning goal in the 73rd minute of the semifinal matchup with Mountain Crest, Watson did it again in the championship game, this time in the 70th minute.
Watson got his foot to a set-piece cross from Ethan Green and guided the ball past the keeper and into the net.
“It’s indescribable,” Watson said when asked what the feeling was like when he saw the ball go into the goal. “The hype was just unreal. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of, really.”
Ridgeline head coach Dale Buchanan heaped praise on his sophomore striker following the game.
“Gabe is just one of those that has to get to the goal and is one of our strongest finishers,” Buchanan said. “He works really hard, he’s a great team player and he has the passion as a striker to get in and score.”
Buchanan said that he was proud of the way his team closed out the last two games and the improvement they displayed as well.
“We’ve struggled to finish this season,” Buchanan said. “We’ve done an outstanding job at defending. We’ve only allowed 21 goals in 20 games, which speaks a lot to our entire team, but finishing has been a struggle, so it was extra sweet when that goal went in late in the game.”
The other Ridgeline goal was scored in the 24th minute when Grady Workman converted a shot from a difficult angle on the right side of the box. Stansbury equalized early in the second half with a left-footed shot from Max Rouffignac that bent just outside of the outstretched hands of Ridgeline’s keeper.
But it was Watson’s goal that secured the win for the 11th-seeded Riverhawks.
Watson said he and his teammates have relished the opportunity to take on the underdog identity throughout the tournament.
“I really like being the underdog,” Watson said. “You got nothing to lose, you come out here play hard, play strong and just try to get the ‘W.’”
Buchanan said that being the 11 seed made things difficult yet rewarding for his team in the end.
“I don’t know if there was a more difficult path for us to get through coming in as the 11,” Buchanan said. “The two St. George trips back-to-back, a week apart in the 90-degree heat, so these guys earned their playoff wins one by one. None of them were easy games, including today. We’ve had outstanding opponents. I think the playoffs were challenging for everybody and I’m just glad we ended up where we did.”
“It’s indescribable. The hype was just unreal. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of, really.” — Ridgeline sophomore Gabe Watson on scoring the game-winning goal
The championship win for the boys was the second soccer title for Ridgeline this school year, with the girls winning a title of their own back in October. The coaching staff is the same for both teams, although roles, titles and responsibilities are shuffled around depending on the team.
Buchanan said that the environment at Ridgeline is what has set them up for the success he and his fellow coaches have had.
“You think about all of the time spent, the energy, the effort, the dedication from coaches down to every single player on the team,” Buchanan said. “It takes a lot of coordination, a lot of work from everybody. Our administration is extremely supportive and coaching staffs from all different sports at our school work really well together. It makes it really, really great environment to breed success.”