Nearly two years ago, the Weber High School boys soccer team took home the 6A state title with a 1-0 defeat over Copper Hills. Still defending that state title they took home in 2019, this season’s Weber Warriors boy soccer team accomplished something that that the title-winning team was unable to achieve: win the Region 1 championship.
With a 1-0 victory over Syracuse Tuesday afternoon, defense excelled once again for the Warriors as they clinched their first Region 1 championship since 2016. With the win Weber remained undefeated for the season and snatched the Region 1 title from top challengers Syracuse and Davis, with two more games still to play in the regular season.
The clean sheet was the 11th of the season for the Warriors who have allowed a state-best two goals all season long. Syracuse and Bingham, who have allowed eight goals each, are the closest 6A teams to Weber when it comes to conceded goals.
Weber head coach Jan Swift attributed the success of the state’s best defense to the hard work his players have put in.
“They don’t quit on anything. The only times they’ve taken a breath is the two goals we’ve allowed, but they focus and they work hard,” Swift said.
The defensive performance the Warriors have delivered throughout the season has been a collective effort, but in Tuesday’s game, it was center-back Preston Larson who shined with a display of impressive recovery time and pace while holding down the backline for Weber.
Swift said that on a team chock-full of hard workers, Larson might be the hardest worker of them all.
Larson said that Weber’s comprehensive trust is what makes the team click defensively and as a whole.
“We know that even on scary balls that we can make that pass and trust our teammate to do what they should do with it. We have trust that we’ll get it done and it usually happens,” Larson said.
Swift said that his team’s defense wasn’t necessarily expected to be a strength coming into the season.
“To be honest, when we first started the season, (defense) was our main concern because none of them were starters last season,” Swift said. “But they’ve worked hard, they’ve gelled and they’ve been strong.”
The state-best defensive play took root early against Syracuse as Weber pressed high, forcing Syracuse to play out of its own end of the field. The press made it difficult for the Titans to spend much time on the attacking side of midfield.
Despite the pressure they were put under, the Titans didn’t crack defensively and showed why they themselves had only allowed eight goals this season.
It appeared as though Syracuse would leave the first half with a nil-nil scoreline, but with just over a minute left in the first half, Weber’s Logan Funk sent a deep ball into the box that found the head of teammate Jayden Nordfors who directed the ball past the keeper and into the right side-netting. Nordfors had just been subbed on for the first time just three minutes prior to scoring what would end up being the game-winning goal.
The goal was a tough pill to swallow for a Syracuse team that had just fought so hard for nearly 39 minutes to not concede a goal. The Titans then had to score at least two goals if they wanted to come away with a win, which is a tough ask when facing a team that has only allowed two goals in 12 games.
Syracuse was unable to find the scoresheet the rest of the game as the Warrior defense carried the one-goal advantage to the final whistle.
“Teams know that it’s going to be a battle if they get forward, it’s not going to be an easy goal,” Swift said when asked what kind of mental impact his defense can have on opposing teams. “That’s hard for other teams knowing that they’ve got to beat our fullbacks.”
Winning the Region 1 title is a first for Weber seniors like Larson, who already have experienced a state title victory in 2019 when they were sophomores. Larson said that this year’s team shares some similarities to the team that won state.
“This team is pretty similar in the aspect of the desire to win,” Larson said. “We all show up to practice every day wanting to push ourselves. Everyone’s fighting for minutes every game, no one has a set spot and everyone knows they’ve got to work to get on the field.”
Although the region title is a welcomed first for everyone on the Weber squad, Larson said that the region title doesn’t begin to satisfy the lofty goals he and his teammates have set their eyes on.
“It feels good, but it’s a small piece of what we’re hoping to get,” Larson said. “We’re happy with it but we’re not satisfied with it yet. We want so much more and we know we can go farther, so we’re not done.”