No. 2 seeded Alta ended Brighton’s playoff run with a 3-2 double-overtime victory in a tight battle as two schools added another chapter to their historic rivalry.
Things were physical from the opening kick, and within 90 seconds Jack Johnson had an open run towards the goal and got fouled in the penalty box. The nerves had yet to calm down for the majority of the players before the Hawks had hauled in a 1-0 lead off of the foot of Carter Bell.
“It is always good to be up, but that is a long 78 minutes after you score in the first half. You are never not going to want to score a goal, but you also can’t let down and think you are fine. We really focused on coming out strong and that is exactly what they did, credit to Jack for an amazing run,” said Alta coach Mackenzie Hyer.
However, there are two sides of that coin, an early goal is still far from the finish line. The two offenses both had numerous opportunities to cash in another goal early, but both goalies were on the top of their game as the teams remained separated by just a goal.
In the 29th minute, the Bengals finally found the back of the net. Colin Laidlow was being heavily pressured on the left side of the field and found a way to get a cross straight to Kaden Wilson. With a flick of the head, Wilson had perfectly placed a ball outside the goalkeeper’s reach and silenced an intense crowd before halftime.
The beginning of the second half saw the ball find the back of the net four times in the first 20 minutes. First, Carter Bell scored his second goal of the afternoon in a crowd of defenders, sneaking the ball through numerous Bengals for a sneaky score under five minutes after play resumed.
The Bengals kept fighting and two minutes later evened the game up once again. A free kick from over 40 yards out flew a tad long, but a lot of contact in the box led the ball to slip away from goalkeeper Thiago Moreira’s fingertips and into the back of the net.
“Both teams delivered, this game is a rivalry and Brighton is a really great team, they gave us a big challenge,” said Moreira. “The game of soccer is played both ways and has ups and downs, but it is determined by how you recover. If you get scored on, you keep your head up and keep playing.”
The Hawks kept playing, looking to retake the lead for the third time. The offense scored twice more in the next few minutes, but both were called back due to being offside. A few scares on the defensive end were held off by Moreira and regulation wound down with two tired teams looking to score one more goal.
The first overtime saw some new life, as both Brighton and Alta had multiple pushes to try and end the game, but neither could get the ball behind the goalie. Early in the second overtime, the Hawks found themselves with a goal kick just outside the box on the right side.
“With two student sections heckling at each other in a fun rivalry, intensity was up. I was on the back post to be the cleanup guy and everyone just got so bunched up the ball was bouncing around. All of a sudden, I have the ball and it is just me and the keeper. I decided to place it wide and really reach for it and next thing you know; it is in the back of the net,” Jack Johnson said, recapping the game-winning goal he scored in the 92nd minute.
Alta played calm and collected over the final 20 minutes of the game, a trait Moreira said came from great coaching.
“It is about being calm and composed, exhaling, and we tell them to just play 80 minutes. They just have to play whistle-to-whistle. Our subs are timed well which allows players to get a drink and come back in to be a game changer,” said Hyer. “We also have six of the most amazing seniors, if you look at who are team is, you will see it is a direct reflection of their leadership, who they are as teammates. I am so proud and honored to get to coach them. They represent Alta soccer better than I could have ever hoped for. They lift everybody up.”
Alta will continue their quest for a state championship in the semifinals where they will play Skyline at Juan Diego High School on Monday afternoon.