You know how the saying goes.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Well, the opposite of that was true for the Corner Canyon Chargers in their 6A championship matchup with American Fork Friday evening at Zions Bank Stadium.
Thanks to a dominant first 12 minutes of play, the No. 18 nationally ranked Chargers were able to see out the Cavemen and secure a 15-10 victory, clinching their second state championship in as many years.
Corner Canyon jumped out of the gates, scoring four goals in the opening 3:24 en route to a 9-1 advantage after the first period.
American Fork outscored the Chargers by three goals the rest of the way, but the scorching-hot start gave them the cushion they needed to win the game.
“We alway try to play all-out right out of the gate,” Corner Canyon senior Mason Quick said.
“We tried to catch them off guard and run at them. For a second there they started to come back, but we kept our composure. …We’re so happy. State champs the last two years, it’s just exciting.”
Given the talent level and sheer dominance of Corner Canyon the past two seasons, anything short of a state championship would be considered a disappointment for the squad, but the Chargers thrived underneath all that pressure all year long.
“I honestly feel relieved,” Corner Canyon head coach Aaron Ika said with a laugh. “I feel like I coach a team of bona fide all-Americans, so I felt like my job this year was just to not screw anything up.”
Despite handling American Fork with relative ease during the regular season (two wins by an average of 13 goals), the Cavemen gave the Chargers what Ika described as “our toughest in-state test this season.”
After falling behind by the eight goals early, American Fork responded valiantly, scoring seven of the game’s next nine.
The Chargers, who had no problem finding the back of the net to start the game, scored only one goal in over 18 minutes of game time.
Suddenly, the Chargers’ starters, who typically don’t play late into the game because their team usually has a comfortable lead, were forced to dig deep and play a full 48 minutes.
The Cavemen cut the lead to as little as three goals, but the Corner Canyon squad closed the game out with a 3-2 advantage in the fourth period, ensuring that American Fork couldn’t make up anymore ground.
“I think they finally realized that they belonged here,” Ika said when asked about American Fork’s dominant stretch of play.
“They’re a helluva team…They’re very well coached and they’ve got very good players, so we knew that even though we beat them two times already, they were going to be prepared for us and give us looks we haven’t seen before.”
Though the lead at the end of the game may not be as lopsided as a typical Corner Canyon game, the win still ended up being a fairly comfortable one for the Chargers as they cruised through the closing minutes.
Corner Canyon senior Jon King said that it felt good to win and meet not only the expectations of everyone in the state, but also the even higher expectations they had for themselves.
“Honestly, we probably put more pressure on ourselves to perform than anyone else does,” King said.
“We just handle that pressure by playing our game. Today, the score was a little bit closer (than usual), but sometimes that happens and we can’t really control that all the time. All we can do is go out there and ball to the best of our abilities, and that’s what we did.”
Quick and King, along with fellow senior Blaze DeGracie, each finished with three goals apiece to conclude what has been a dominant two years for them and their 14 other senior teammates, many of whom will be playing at the Division I level next year at schools throughout the country.
Ika said that the senior class will leave quite the legacy as players move onto their next stage.
“The thing about these seniors, it was never about them,” Ika said. “(If) you come to our practices, you’d see the seniors moving cages, picking up balls, stuff freshmen normally do on other teams, but our guys, to their credit, they’ve been doing all the hard work all year.”
Junior Jacob Osborn also added three goals for the Chargers, while American Fork’s Noah and Tate Fisher each notched a hat trick as well.
With the win, the Chargers have yet to lose to an in-state opponent since lacrosse became a sanctioned sport in Utah, boasting a 41-1 overall record over the past two championship-winning seasons.