In the preseason coaches’ poll, the Stansbury boys soccer team was picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in Region 11 after missing out on the Class 4A state tournament a season ago.
So far, the Stallions are proving everybody wrong, one road game at a time.
Two days after a 2-1 victory over Bonneville in the region opener, Stansbury did it again Friday evening in Draper, beating Juan Diego 2-1 thanks to a pair of late goals from Mitchell Holdstock and Izzy Jones. The Stallions (4-3, 2-0 Region 11) now sit atop the region standings, though weather caused multiple postponements last week.
“It’s a dream start — but it’s a start,” Stansbury coach Jacob Jones said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. You look at the schedule and you hope that something like this can start because we were so close last year.
“It’s just cannon fodder for us — they’re just preseason rankings,” he added. “It’s just us taking a chip on our shoulder and saying, ‘we’re better than they think we are, and let’s go out and prove it.’”
Stansbury had multiple chances to score early in the game, with the best opportunity coming when Holdstock got his head on a cross from Brandon Bustillos in the 16th minute, only to have it saved by Soaring Eagle goalkeeper Matthew Osmundson. Antonio Ortega had a couple chances for Juan Diego, as did Seth Blasingim, but Stansbury goalkeeper Ethan Toland kept the game scoreless.
The Stallions finally broke through in the 72nd minute, mere moments after a scramble in front of the Soaring Eagle net nearly resulted in a Stansbury goal. After a brief stoppage to attend to Osmundson, who was injured on the play, the Stallions struck paydirt when Gabe Golden found Holdstock open in front with a perfect crossing pass to put SHS up 1-0. The assistant referee on the Stallions’ sideline had his flag up for offside on the play, but was overruled by the center referee and the goal was allowed to stand.
Things got worse for the Soaring Eagle (0-2, 0-1) when Ortega was shown a red card in the aftermath of Holdstock’s goal, leaving Juan Diego with 10 players for the remainder of the contest. A little more than a minute later, the Stallions added to their lead on another picture-perfect feed from Golden to Izzy Jones.
“We were making those backdoor runs and making sure we followed through to the middle, hoping that we would have someone there to get a shot off,” Golden said. “That was the main key. We practice it all the time, so it’s kind of just instinct to play it through the center and know that someone’s going to be there.”
Juan Diego sliced the lead in half on a bad-angle shot from the right wing that eluded Toland in the 77th minute, but that’s all the Soaring Eagle would get. It was the latest impressive victory this season for Stansbury, which has also beaten highly regarded teams from Ridgeline and Mountain View and hung tough in close losses to Orem, Green Canyon and Morgan.
“It’s incredible,” Golden said. “We’ve just got to keep it going.”
The schedule won’t get easier for the Stallions, however. Their next game is Tuesday on the road against Ben Lomond, which was picked to finish fourth in Region 11 and already has a victory over preseason favorite Park City.
“It hasn’t been the prettiest soccer,” Jacob Jones said. “We haven’t played our best yet. We’ve played nothing but good teams, and it’s helped, but these last two games … we need to pick it up. We need to play better than we have.”