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‘This means everything’: Ogden advances to the semifinals of 2020 Graduation Cup in joyous return to play

FARMINGTON — High school soccer is back.

Well, kind of.

The 2020 Graduation Cup, an unsanctioned soccer tournament for Utah high school teams, rolled on at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington on Thursday afternoon, which featured the quarterfinals.

Ogden defeated Maple Mountain 1-0 to advance to the semifinals, with the early game-winner coming via the foot of Rogelio Ceja in the first half.

“Maple Mountain came in and they were really well played and well-coached. I give my hat off to them. My boys realized that they had to match them and the intensity. They came through and finished it off today,” Ogden head coach Todd Scott said. “Hats off to Maple Mountain and I’m proud of my boys that they were able to finish today.”

The tournament provides a form of closure to the 28 teams participating. High school soccer across Utah was cancelled just a few games into the season this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This means everything, especially to my six seniors that got their season prematurely cancelled because of COVID-19,” Scott said.

The tournament was organized by Nisa Hancock, who is the tournament director for Wasatch Soccer Club. Hancock was given an assist by Davis High soccer parent Scott Harwood, who drove the registration push across the state.

“This would not have been possible without Nisa Hancock and Scott Harwood, especially Nisa Hancock. Her putting this together to be able to give almost 30 schools an opportunity to have just a small closure,” Scott said. “Even though this isn’t in the record books, it’s non-sanctioned, this means everything to my boys — especially to my seniors,” Scott said.

Ogden found out about the tournament through social media and raced to sign up for the tournament.

“We just happened to be fortunate to register in time to be in this tournament,” Scott said.

The Tigers started practicing for the tournament just a week before it started. It required getting the players that wanted to participate back from vacations, in some cases.

“Especially right now, almost three months off (from soccer) to get back on — I know it’s rusty — but just to be able to touch the ball is everything for my boys,” Scott said.

In the Graduation Cup tournament format, teams were separated into two divisions — the Pomp division and the Circumstance division. The divisions were organized via a coaches survey and group play started on Monday, with four groups per division. The quarterfinals featured the winners of each group against the second-place team in another group.

The format was not separated by region or classification, allowing for some unique matchups. The tournament format was a big plus for Scott. Thursday’s matchup pitted his Tigers, in 4A, against Maple Mountain, which is in 5A. The two teams have not competed against one another in soccer since 2014, when both were in 4A.

“It’s been awesome. From 3A to 6A, just being able to combine it — you never know who you get. To be able to play different classifications, it’s been awesome. A great experience. Honestly, I wish our season was kind of like this — especially preseason,” Scott said.

The semifinals in each division take place on Friday and the championship in both divisions will be held on Saturday, with the Pomp division final at 8 a.m. and the Circumstance division final at 10 a.m. at the Legacy Events Center.