There were no region or state championships awarded to high school boys soccer teams this year, with their season cut short by COVID-19.
However, thanks to the efforts of Wasatch Soccer Club tournament director Nisa Hancock, along with Scott Harwood, the parent of a Davis High soccer player, 28 teams had the opportunity to come together once more last week at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington for the Graduation Cup. Sixteen teams played in the Pomp division, which was won by Westlake, while Park City won the 12-team Circumstance division that also included Stansbury.
“It was fantastic,” Stansbury coach Jacob Jones said. “Nisa did a fantastic job putting it together. To get 28 schools to jump in and have facilities like we’ve had — the fields are fantastic and I don’t think we played on a better field all season long — we had an opportunity to play and see other coaches and see other players. The teams came out and they competed, and that was cool.”
The Stallions, who had won all five of their matches before the season was halted in March, reached the quarterfinals of the Graduation Cup before being eliminated with a 4-1 loss to Class 6A Riverton on Thursday afternoon. Stansbury opened pool play with a 3-1 loss to Park City on Tuesday, but followed that with a 6-2 win over Mountain Crest on Wednesday.
“All in all, I’m proud of them,” Jones said. “They played their hearts out.”
In Thursday’s knockout-stage match, the Stallions and Silverwolves played to a scoreless draw through the first 40 minutes, though it wasn’t for a lack of scoring opportunities on both ends of the field. Max Rouffignac, Sam Holdstock, Archer Loertscher and Dante Silvestri all put pressure on Riverton’s back line, including a point-blank shot by Silvestri off a corner kick that deflected off the Silverwolves’ goalkeeper and over the crossbar in the 19th minute. Riverton had a couple chances late in the first half, but missed the target to keep the match knotted at 0-0.
It didn’t take long for Riverton to find the back of the net in the second half. A partial breakaway led to the game’s first goal in the 41st minute, and the Silverwolves doubled their lead off a corner kick in the 53rd minute. Stansbury seemed regain some momentum two minutes later when Tyler Kitchen headed in Kolton Loertscher’s corner kick to pull back within a goal, but a Riverton penalty kick that got past SHS goalkeeper Devun Collins in the 67th minute stymied the Stallions’ comeback hopes.
Alek Packham nearly gave Stansbury a second goal in the 69th minute, but a diving stop by the Riverton keeper kept the Silverwolves comfortably in front. They added another goal on a partial breakaway in the 71st minute to provide the final margin.
“Our defense was really young — that’s where we got hit the most,” Jones said. “I thought they bounced back great from the Park City game. They really came back together and really tightened it up and played a great game (against Mountain Crest). Even here (against Riverton) was a great game. We just kind of got unlucky there for a little bit with trying to shift some things up. We had some injuries on the back line and we were already short on the back line, so we had some guys playing back there who aren’t really used to it.”
Jones was thankful for the opportunity to bring his team together again for the tournament, which also provided a fitting sendoff for just-graduated seniors Kitchen, Packham and Ben Lindsay. It was also a valuable learning experience for the Stallions’ underclassmen, who will be relied upon to play bigger roles when next season begins in March 2021.
“It was awesome,” Jones said. “I wish we could have gotten all (seven of) the seniors together, but it was great. To be able to play 6A and 5A (schools) in a tournament setting, that’s a lot better than playing 4A (schools) and wondering what might have been.”