The Stansbury Stallions guaranteed themselves at least the No. 4 spot in the state tournament with a 2-0 win against the Grantsville Cowboys on Wednesday.
Even if the Stallions were to lose their final two regular season games, they still would finish ahead of either the Tooele Buffaloes or Morgan Trojans and avoid a first-round playoff visit to St. George. With Juab High School having no boys soccer program, Region 12 only gets three playoff spots, and Region 11 gets five playoff spots. The fifth playoff team from Region 11 becomes the fourth team for Region 12 and will visit Region 9’s champion in the first round of the state tournament.
Stansbury got its playoff security with goals from Josh Gallegos and Darius Johnson. Gallegos’ goal came midway through the first half after dominating time of possession.
Jara Eshete battled for position on the sideline and got open to cross the ball back toward the goal. The long cross came in, and Gallegos timed it perfectly with his head to knock the ball into the net and give Stansbury a 1-0 lead.
Johnson’s goal came in the second half on another assist. Eshete had two Grantsville defenders in front of him, so he lofted a pass over their heads and at Johnson’s feet. Johnson positioned himself and blasted the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Despite the win, players, fans and coaches all felt like Stansbury could have done better. They felt that Stansbury didn’t play its best game.
“We got the win, and that’s always tasteful,” Stansbury coach Brandon Andersen said. “You expect a little more out of your team coming to a game. It just seemed like we came out sort of nonchalant today. The expectations are that you come out to play hard on every ball, and we just came out a little flat.”
Andersen admitted that his players may have been looking ahead to Friday’s contest against first-place Ogden. He said they knew Grantsville’s record, and that made it tough since this is the first time the two teams played against each other this season. But he said he’s happy for his seniors that they were able to pick up a win on their senior day.
On Grantsville’s side, the feeling was disappointment, but head coach Travis Lowry said he’s pleased with how his young players have grown this season, and he expects great things from them in the future.
Lowry got a smile on his face when talking about the potential of freshman goalkeeper Parker May, who made a few diving saves and punch-outs against the Stallions. He said there are a few things May still needs to learn that should come with age and experience.
“He needs to communicate with [the defense] a little more,” Lowry said. “Being a freshman, I think he’s a little bit timid to yell at them what he wants them to do. There were quite a few times where they’re coming back, and they’re blind to what’s behind them, and he needed to tell them. So defense did good, but they just need to let him control the game.”
Lowry said he had hoped for more wins during the season, but he’s pleased with the progress his players have made. He said he feels the future looks bright. The Cowboys have three games left on the schedule, including two region games. They host Bear River on Friday, and then they host Stansbury on Tuesday.
Stansbury still has a shot of moving up the standings and improving its position in the playoffs. As of Wednesday, the Stallions remarkably still have a chance to clinch second place in the region, although they would need some help to get it. They play at Ogden on Friday and at Grantsville on Tuesday.
“Friday, it’s on,” Andersen said. “It’s a big game. It’s an away game. It’s something that we have to come out and put it to them as much as we can.”
The Stallions are aware of their chance to move up the standings, and they’re excited for the opportunity to do it. They know they need help to do it, but they can only take care of what’s in front of them. So Andersen said the players are taking Friday’s game against Ogden seriously. He said the Stallions have shown their ability to play with the best teams, but now they have to do it consistently to get a win.