Grantsville boys soccer coach Travis Lowry wasn’t sure what kind of team the Cowboys would have when the season kicked off earlier this month — particularly on the back end, where Grantsville’s defense had one player with any varsity experience.
Through the first four games of the Region 13 season, he has been pleasantly surprised.
The Cowboys put together another strong defensive effort Friday afternoon, shutting out region foe Summit Academy 3-0 in Grantsville for their fourth clean sheet of the season. In fact, Grantsville (5-2, 2-2 Region 13) has conceded just four goals all season — an average of just 0.57 per game, trailing only Grand’s average of 0.20 for the stingiest defense in Class 3A entering Monday’s games.
“I think our chemistry’s coming along and the back line is coming along,” Lowry said. The Cowboys, missing one of their top offensive threats in sophomore forward Cole Cowan because of an injury, still managed to get things going early against Summit Academy (1-5, 0-4). Senior forward JJ Backus got under a long ball and sprinted away from the Bears’ defense just past the eight-minute mark of the first half, beating Summit Academy goalkeeper Kyson Andolsek on the ensuing breakaway for a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Zac Carver and the Grantsville defense kept the Bears at bay, though they dodged a bullet late in the first half. Elias Holt was fouled just outside the 18-yard box in the 29th minute, setting up a free kick. However, Holt’s attempt sailed just high and wide, preserving the Cowboys’ one-goal advantage.
Grantsville doubled its lead less than four minutes into the second half. Just after a corner kick by Trevor Tuckett, junior co-captain Billy Barker fired a shot from a sharp angle to beat Andolsek from the right wing with 36:14 left in the match.
Summit Academy had its chances to cut into the Cowboys’ lead over the next 15 minutes, as Easton Richardson’s free kick missed wide and Joshua Richardson’s long shot was stopped by Carver in the 53rd minute. Five minutes later, another shot by Joshua Richardson clanged off the goal post to Carver’s right and rolled harmlessly into the corner.
“Zac, our goalie, is playing amazing,” Lowry said. “He’s actually really, really focused in this year. He looks good. He deserves to get recognized because he’s playing well. He’s done that all season.”
Grantsville regained momentum after that, and began putting pressure on Andolsek and the Bears’ defense. Andolsek made a save on a long shot from the left wing by Joe Wright in the 62nd minute, and Barker headed a ball just wide in the 69th minute. Luis Delgado also had a shot go wide off a corner kick in the 74th minute before Barker finally converted, ripping a shot into the top right corner with 4:15 left in the match.
“(Barker has) had a little bit of a hip flexor (injury),” Lowry said. “He’s kind of pushing through some pain, and we’ve been waiting for him to get feeling well enough to kind of take off. I hope (Friday was) that day, because he looked good — really good.”
Carver finished with five saves in the win for Grantsville. Tuckett had two assists and Preston Remick had one.
Grantsville will finish the first half of the Region 13 season April 6 at Morgan. The Cowboys currently sit half a game behind the Trojans (5-2, 2-1) for third place in the region, with Judge Memorial (4-3, 4-1) leading the way and South Summit (5-3, 3-1) in second.
“None of the teams (in the region) have a ton of attacking,” Lowry said. “They’re all great at defense. Judge and South Summit are very good ball-control teams, but there’s not much going forward, or our defense has stepped up that well. I’m still trying to decipher what that is.”
The Cowboys will face Wendover in a non-region road game April 8. Grantsville’s next home match is April 13 against Judge Memorial.