Playing its second game in less than 24 hours, it would have been understandable if the Tooele boys soccer team had run out of gas in its Saturday showdown with reigning Class 3A state champion Ridgeline.
But while the Buffaloes couldn’t find the equalizer in the waning moments of their 2-1 loss to the RiverHawks, it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities, as they had three golden chances sail just off-target. It was an encouraging sign for Tooele (1-1), which was coming off a 2-1 win over North Sanpete just a day earlier.
“It was a battling performance — not just a battling performance, but we created more chances in the game,” Tooele coach Stephen Duggan said. “We didn’t deserve to lose that game. We deserved to get something out of it — I don’t know if we deserved to win it, but we deserved a result.”
An early mistake covering a corner kick put the Buffs behind just four minutes into the contest, but Tooele got its ship righted and was eventually rewarded when Ridgeline’s goalkeeper pulled Said Ramirez down on an opportunity in front of the RiverHawks’ goal. Hunter Eisenbrandt buried the ensuing penalty kick into the top right corner of the net to pull the Buffs even just before halftime.
“After the first couple minutes, with a bad mistake that gave away a goal, they could have dropped their heads,” Duggan said. “Instead, they picked it up and they showed a lot of heart and a lot of battle out there. That’s the level that you’ve got to be at, and I thought we were really, really good today.”
Ridgeline regained the lead on a perfectly placed shot from outside the 18-yard box in the 63rd minute, but Tooele kept coming. Ramirez had perhaps the best chance, avoiding a challenge from the Ridgeline keeper before putting a shot wide of the post.
All things considered, Duggan was happy with what his team showed through its first two games of the season.
“It’s early in the season,” Duggan said. “We only got back out on grass on Thursday. You’ve got to give the boys huge, huge plaudits. It was a great battle and you’ve got to give our boys a lot of credit.”
Tooele opens Region 11 play Wednesday at Ogden.