In its last season, the Skyridge Falcons fell short of playing in a championship game after being defeated by Brighton in the 5A semifinals.
Now in their first full boys soccer season as a 6A school, the Falcons will find themselves facing Weber in Friday’s 6A championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium, thanks to a 2-1 victory over Herriman Monday evening at Juan Diego High School.
After trailing the Mustangs for nearly 57 minutes of play, the Falcons scored two goals in the final 13 minutes of the game to secure the win. Skyridge’s Jackson Warden got the equalizing goal and Andrew Parra scored the game-winning goal with just over 90 seconds remaining in the game.
“It’s a dream come true,” Parra said after scoring his first game-winning goal of his soccer career. “I’ve always wanted to just score that game-winning goal to move on or win, and it finally happened.”
Skyridge was forced to chase Herriman early after it turned the ball over in their defensive third, which led to a goal from Herriman’s Mason Ayers just 10 minutes into the game. Chances weren’t hard to come by for the Falcons though, as they had consistent chances throughout the game.
Herriman goalkeeper Shayn Thomsen played an excellent game, executing save after save, and making it hard for Skyridge to find the breakthrough.
Individual brilliance from Warden is what allowed Skyridge to finally get on the scoresheet in the 67th minute. Warden weaved through defenders on the right side of the pitch before taking a shot across the face of the goal and slotting it home on the left side of the net.
“We gave up that goal early and it was kind of frustrating, but we felt like we knew we were going to play our game and that we were going to get over it even though the shots weren’t falling at first,” Warden said. “I got the ball and I was just feeling it, I guess. I don’t know, it was just one of those moments where I just let the ball do its thing and it felt amazing.”
Skyridge head coach Jerry Preisendorf said that Warden’s goal with 13 minutes to play lifted a huge weight off the shoulders of him and his team.
“Their keeper was phenomenal,” Preisendorf said. “It was huge when we got that (first goal), I think that lifted the monkey off these guys’ backs.”
It seemed fitting that Warden would create the breakthrough opportunity, as he excelled at getting deep with his dribble and with his runs all game.
“He is so fast,” Preisendorf said of his Warden. “He can put any defender in a popcorn popper and he did tonight. He got around that guy and he was gone.”
Preisendorf said that when his team got the first goal he was certain that they would be able to get a second.
The second goal came just under 12 minutes later when Nicholas Saunders sent a low cross into the feet of Parra, who then blasted the ball into the roof of the goal. The shot would go on to send the Falcons into the championship game.
“What a banger,” Preisendorf said when asked his thoughts on the game-winning goal. “That was it baby, that was fun to watch. That was an absolute banger.”
The Falcons’ long winded search for a goal was given a boost in the 50th minute when Herriman’s Josh Conover was given a yellow card for a foul he committed. Then, after dissenting to the ref, he was shown a second yellow and sent off, leaving the Mustangs with just 10 men on the field.
“That red card really motivated all of us to work harder and get those final goals,” Parra said.
Warden agreed with his teammate.
“It definitely helped,” Warden said. “I think at that point we were playing our game really well and they were getting kind of frustrated, so I think we would’ve gotten a goal anyway, but that really did help boost us going forward.”
Preisendorf was proud of his team’s effort down the stretch and how they’ve worked over the past two years to finally get the chance to play in a championship game.
The toughest test the Falcons will face all season will come on Friday as they head to Rio Tinto to face the undefeated Weber Warriors who have only conceded two goals the entire season.
“I’m so excited, I know we’re going to win it,” Warden said of the championship showdown with Weber. “They’re amazing, but they haven’t played us yet.”
Preisendorf said he and his guys will be locked in come Friday.
“We’ve got to give them a blemish. That’s our job and we’ll be ready to go,” Preisendorf said.