The Grantsville boys soccer team is going through a rebuilding process this season, with a roster loaded full of underclassmen and just two seniors.
That has made for some difficult learning experiences, particularly as the Cowboys play in Class 3A’s toughest region. However, despite those growing pains, there are positive signs in Grantsville, as the Cowboys were within a goal of visiting Morgan until the Trojans scored three times in the final 10 minutes to pull away for a 6-2 victory in the teams’ Region 13 game Monday afternoon.
“I love this team,” Grantsville coach Travis Lowry said. “I’m proud of them. I like the youth, I like the skill in the youth — we’ve just got to mature and grow.”
Morgan (4-4-3, 1-1-1 Region 11) needed just three minutes to take a 1-0 lead, putting Grantsville (1-6, 0-3) in a tough position almost immediately. However, the Cowboys got an opportunity of their own in the 10th minute when freshman Billy Barker was pulled down inside the 18-yard box, setting up senior Dayne Linton for a penalty kick that he put past Morgan goalkeeper Colby Westenskow to tie the game.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Barker suffered a knee injury on the play and did not return to the game. It was the second consecutive game that Grantsville has lost a forward to a knee injury, after Jose Garcia went down against South Summit and was left to watch Monday’s game on crutches from the sideline.
“We’ve lost two of our forwards in back-to-back games with knee injuries,” Lowry said. “We’re dropping even deeper into the freshman depth chart.”
Morgan regained the lead on a penalty kick by Bradley Allgaier in first-half stoppage time, and extended its advantage to 3-1 on a partial breakaway by Chase Lane in the 43rd minute. Linton nearly pulled the Cowboys within a goal 10 minutes later, but his shot hit the crossbar near the top-right corner of the net and stayed out.
Linton eventually scored on another PK in the 63rd minute after Westenskow pulled him down from behind in the box, and he had another chance to tie it when the Trojans were whistled for a hand ball just outside the box to set up a free kick. However, his attempt just missed the right post.
“Even though the results aren’t coming yet, I can see we’re better each game and we’re in each game,” Lowry said. “We’ll take the positives when we can.”
Then, a familiar issue reared its head for the Cowboys. Much like Friday’s game, when the Cowboys allowed six goals in a 10-minute span against South Summit, Morgan scored three goals in a span of four minutes to put the game out of reach. Allgaier scored in the 72nd minute after catching the Grantsville defense flat-footed and getting his shot past diving GHS goalkeeper Zach Carver. Two minutes later, Lane tucked the ball into the bottom right corner of the net after a perfect centering pass, and Allgaier added another goal on a cross by Jacob Firby in the 76th minute.
“That’s two games in a row that we — I guess — relaxed,” Lowry said. “I think that’s inexperience. We’re starting five freshmen. I think we played really well today, but we had that little burst where we just went to sleep. That’ll do it. That’ll end you.”
Grantsville will get a break from Region 13 play with a road game against Kearns on Wednesday, followed by a home game against Wendover on Friday. The Cowboys will resume region play April 10 in Bluffdale against Summit Academy.