The Tooele boys soccer team came into Tuesday evening’s rivalry game against Stansbury with nothing to play for except pride, while the Stallions were in desperate need of a victory to keep their state tournament hopes alive.
For 79 minutes, the host Buffaloes played as though it was their season on the line, throwing a scare into their neighbors from the north. Ultimately, however, it was Stansbury who walked off the Buffalo Stadium pitch with a 3-0 victory, buoyed by a pair of last-minute goals by Mitchell Holdstock and Jaylon Davis.
“Wish it would have happened sooner, but it keeps it fun,” Stansbury coach Jacob Jones said of the Stallions’ late scoring outburst.
Tooele (0-14-1, 0-12-1 Region 11) had Stansbury (8-7-1, 6-4-1) on its heels for much of the first 20 minutes, and could be considered a bit unlucky not to have taken an early lead. Their best chance came when Alex Anderson’s shot sailed over the crossbar from the right wing in the 17th minute.
“Sport can be cruel, can’t it?” Tooele coach Stephen Duggan said. “You look at the result on paper — 3-nil — and you say it must have been a handy game. It was far from it.”
Stansbury got the break it needed in the 32nd minute as Holdstock corralled a loose ball off a scramble in front of the Tooele net and put it past Tooele goalkeeper Porter Staten for a 1-0 advantage. The play was set up by Davis and Jacob Bromley, who brought the ball into the 18-yard box before Holdstock was able to convert.
“We were trying something new, and it definitely didn’t work,” Jones said of Tooele’s first-half momentum. “I think it played right into their hands, but we settled it down. They came out with a game plan, and we were able to best it.”
Despite falling behind, Tooele kept the pressure on in the second half, and the Buffs were seemingly one pass away from creating a game-tying goal. However, the Stallions’ defense and goalkeeper Ethan Toland kept Tooele off the board.
“The majority of the game in the second half was played in and around (Stansbury’s) 18-yard box,” Duggan said. “It’s hard to take.”
Stansbury finally gave itself some breathing room when Holdstock headed in a crossing pass to double the Stallions’ lead. Mere seconds later, Davis made it 3-0 off a scramble in front.
The victory puts the Stallions on the brink of clinching a postseason berth one year after missing out on the state tournament. Stansbury will make the postseason if it beats first-place Ogden, or if Bonneville loses one of its final two games against Ben Lomond or Tooele. Stansbury could also clinch a playoff berth with a tie against Ogden if Bonneville fails to win either of its final two matches.
“There’s still a lot of games to be played, and we’re so close with the other teams in the region that we could finish anywhere from second to fifth,” Jones said. “This is a tough region. We were close in so many games last year and this year, we got a couple of them.”
Tooele will wrap up its season Monday afternoon at Buffalo Stadium against Bonneville.
“I wish (Stansbury) luck in the playoffs,” Duggan said. “I think I’ve coached five or six of the boys in their starting 11. When the game’s on in the heat of the battle, of course you want to win, but I wish them the best of luck.”