The biggest moment of Ryan Woolley’s soccer life seemed to unfold in slow motion. With the first overtime in Wednesday’s 4A state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium coming to a close, the ball popped straight to an unmarked Woolley about 12 yards from the goal.
Under normal circumstances, time and space in the box is precious and Woolley would’ve cracked his shot the first time. On this day though, two Ridgeline defenders had collapsed on a Mason Manwaring run into the box, with all three colliding and falling down. That left no one to deal with Woolley when Camden Squires’ follow-up shot redirected to Woolley in the box. He calmly took a touch, picked his spot to the left of the keeper and smashed in the golden goal as Crimson Cliffs celebrated the 1-0 victory and its first 4A state championship in school history.
“He’s done that multiple times, he hangs out on the backdoor. That’s where his bread and butter really is, when he gets the ball with space then he can get a prep touch and shoot it home. He’s done that all season,” said Crimson Cliffs coach Isaac Klingonsmith.
The goal denied Ridgeline, which had the better of the chances on the day, a shot at a repeat 4A state title after it beat Stansbury last year.
Ridgeline generating the better of the chances was always something Klingonsmith kind of expected might happen, at least in the first half. Tactically, that’s how he approached the match.
“It’s such a huge field and we went to double overtime (in the semifinals) and I run a tighter rotation and so I didn’t run a lot of subs,” said Klingonsmith. “We knew we’d be pretty tired so (for) the first half, it was really about absorbing and counterattacking to maybe get a goal, but make sure not to concede that first half.”
It was fairly even in the middle third, but Ridgeline was more dangerous in the attacking third throughout the game, which led to over a dozen corner kicks.
Crimson Cliffs’ stingy defense never conceded, though, as Dade MacDonald recorded his 11th shutout of the season as the Mustangs ended the season on an 11-game winning streak.
“Our keeper was huge this game in winning a lot of aerial battles,” said Klingonsmith.
The win was extra sweet for Crimson Cliffs, which lost to Ridgeline in a shootout in the 4A second round a year ago. Klingonsmith downplayed the significance of the rematch, but knows it meant a lot to his seniors.
With neither team able to solve the other’s defense, it looked like Wednesday’s championship might be decided in a shootout like last year’s game. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Crimson Cliffs, which would’ve been very confident in PKs after beating Desert Hills the day before in a shootout after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer.
Ridgeline’s defense had done well on Manwaring’s runs out of the midfield all game, but in the 90th minute he popped the ball up over one defender at the top of the box, which forced two other defenders to collapse and block his shot. It created just a brief moment of disorganization at the back and that was enough time for Crimson Cliffs to pounce.
Ridgeline’s block of Manwaring’s shot attempt redirected to Squires, who mishit his shot at glory but was fortunate to have the ball roll straight to Woolley. He calmly found the back of the net for his ninth goal of the season just before two Ridgeline defenders could dive in and block it.
He finishes with the team lead along with Elijah Smith, who was unable to play in the championship and also finished with nine goals.
“Camden was looking to hit that shot, had a little mishit rolled right to my feet. It was slow motion from there,” said Woolley.