SANDY — On a field where just a few weeks ago Real Salt Lake came agonizingly close to becoming the best team in North America, Waterford's soccer team looked like it was headed for the same frustrating fate in Saturday's 2A state championship
Despite thoroughly dominating the second half, Waterford couldn't solve St. Joseph's defensive wall and still trailed heading into the 77th minute.
Just when it appeared Waterford's reign in 2A was coming to an end though, it stunned St. Joseph — twice.
The Ravens scored the tying goal in the 78th minute and then notched the winning goal in the 80th minute in a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"No one thought we could do it, but we knew we could and we stuck it out to the end," said Waterford midfielder Josh Warner, who celebrated his winning goal with a trio of cartwheels before being mobbed by teammates.
His goal on an assist from Avery Smith capped a stunning turn of events just minutes before St. Joseph was about to celebrate its first boys soccer title in school history.
St. Joseph was the better team throughout the first half, and took the 1-0 lead on a beautiful set piece goal from Ty Evans, who headed in a cross from Adam Brodstein in the 26th minute.
Waterford came into the playoffs with a losing record, but — after having to rally for a quarterfinal victory — vowed not to panic.
Waterford coach Tim Dolbin told his players to push numbers into the attack, not hang their heads and create chances. His players did all that, but St. Joseph's defense bunkered in and did a great job protecting its 1-0 lead.
With just a few minutes remaining, Dolbin admitted feeling perhaps it wasn't the Ravens' day, but he also believed his team needed just one chance.
That moment came in the 78th minute when David Beesley collected the ball near the top of the box, took a touch around a defender and then slotted home the tying goal.
With roughly three minutes remaining and all the momentum, the Ravens weren't thinking about overtime.
"All the momentum was our way, and by then the other team is going 'oh my gosh, we've got to hold on so we can push it to overtime and regroup,' " said Dolbin, who just kept telling his players to, "go, go, go."
The decisive moment came with 51 seconds remaining, as Smith curled a ball into the box for Warner, who had slipped in behind St. Joseph's back line. Warner calmly took a touch and buried the winner.
"We had plenty of chances in those last five minutes, I thought we'd get one, but I didn't dream we'd get two," said Dolbin.3 comments on this story
The title was Waterford's fourth in school history, and third since the UHSAA began sanctioning 2A soccer in 2007. Rowland Hall won 2A titles in 2008 and 2009 while Waterford was in 3A, but Saturday's win keeps the Ravens perfect in 2A.
Waterford came into the playoffs with a 5-6 record, but a first-round overtime win over Wasatch Academy convinced the Ravens a state title was realistic.
"We had good games, bad games, on, off. Things started to gel in the tournament when we got that first win in overtime. Boys started to believe," said Dolbin.
It never stopped believing in the 80th minute.