To say it was a difficult high school boys soccer season in Tooele County would be an accurate assessment, if a bit understated.
Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville will all be watching the state tournament from home next week, wondering what could have been. It wasn’t altogether unexpected, with Tooele and Stansbury making the jump to Class 4A this season with inexperienced rosters, and Grantsville being placed in a region with four potential Class 3A semifinalists. That certainly doesn’t make the losing any easier to stomach for the players, coaches or fans, but it’s true that all three teams were fighting an uphill battle before the season even started.
Despite the fact that this season won’t end with a state title for any of the three teams, or even a trip to the state playoffs, this season wasn’t a total loss for any of them.
Take Tooele, for instance. The Buffaloes struggled to win games this year, but the group of graduating seniors can still hold their heads high. A year ago, the Buffs broke through and not only made the postseason, but they won a game and found themselves in the Class 3A quarterfinals — in part, because of a strong group of then-juniors. This year, Tooele had a lot of things working against it, from stiffer competition to a roster full of players just getting used to playing soccer at the varsity level. Having to do that against the likes of Juan Diego, Bonneville and Park City makes for some difficult afternoons.
Stansbury didn’t have it easy, either. The Stallions, unlike the Buffs, have had a sustained winning tradition, but a large part of the reason for that was their continuity. Last year, Stansbury graduated a number of players who had been playing together their entire high school careers a- and some even longer than that. That left Stansbury with a lot of talent, but having to develop chemistry on the fly. The Stallions eventually got there, but it was too little, too late to save their playoff hopes. But with their strong finish to this season, there is plenty of reason for optimism heading into the 2019 campaign.
In Grantsville, the Cowboys showed a ton of improvement, even if their region record didn’t show it. It’s still a young squad that’s only going to get better, but much like Tooele, it’s hard to get the results to go along with that improvement when the opposition is so good. There’s not a team in Region 13 that isn’t capable of a state championship, and when things go wrong, they can go really wrong in a hurry. But, with one year of experience under their belt, expect the Cowboys to come back stronger for it next year.
So, while this soccer season would appear on paper to have been a total loss for Tooele County, if you look below the surface, it really wasn’t. It may take a year or two, but expect the local squads to play a prominent role in the playoffs going forward.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He thinks it’s a shame the soccer season has to end just as the weather is getting nice. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.