SALT LAKE CITY — It's 3A state playoff time and the Wasatch boys soccer team is hungry for a repeat title.
The Wasps have been in the championship game at Rio Tinto for the past two years, falling to Judge in 2010 before taking home the trophy in last year's contest against Juan Diego.
"They know what it takes to get there," Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley said of his players. "They know what it's like to lose and they know what it's like to win, so it motivates them."
The Region 10 champions focused first on getting the region title, going 9-1 behind potent scoring threat Ben Powell. Powell has scored 21 goals and is currently second in the state for scoring.
He's supported on the defensive end by goalkeeper Cooper Hall, leading the state in shutouts with 12. With such an impressive duo, the Wasps have been near impossible to upset.
However, a free kick header from Park City's Keenan McCall helped the Miners do just that. They snapped Wasatch's incredible 30-game win streak on April 20. The feat was testament to the fact that no one will simply walk away with this year's trophy.
The Miners been playing extremely well, as they are aggressive and well-coached.
The Soaring Eagle nearly blanked Jordan (4-1) and have experience at Rio Tinto Stadium, as they were the team to fall victim to the Wasps in last year's contest. Juan Diego also defeated Park City twice.
"They're not afraid to play anyone," Wheatley said of Juan Diego. "They're very physical and strong."
Wheatley acknowledged the fact that all of Region 10 plays at that higher level of physicality, but he was quick to credit Region 9, as well.
"When you match up the two regions, every game has potential for an upset."
The Dixie Flyers gave both Wasatch and Alta a fright this year, losing by one in both contests. They boast an impressive 11-1 region record, with their only loss coming from Pine View.
Pine View utilizes a well-distributed scoring effort, while looking to goalkeeper Logan Kimzey to protect the net. Kimzey has displayed a stellar performance thus far with 9.5 shutouts.
Hurricane and Desert Hills are viable as well, and according to Dixie head coach Burt Meyers, Region 9 is really up in the air.
"It ended surprisingly for me," he said. "A couple of teams came on and pushed at the end. Any of the top four teams could beat any of the other top four teams, just depending on the night. We're all pretty even."
He went on to include Snow Canyon in the mix, noting their youth but also their strength.
Quite possibly the biggest matchups in the opening round include Juan Diego and Pine View, and Wasatch and Desert Hills.
"Wasatch getting Desert Hills … it's really not like getting a fourth-seeded team," Meyers said. "They're only one game out of second place after injuries and everything."
On the other side of the bracket, Ogden and Ben Lomond lead Region 11 with impressive records. Josue Valtierra — one of the top scorers in 3A — leads Ogden while Ben Lomond relies on Luis Zarate for an offensive spark.
From Region 12, Delta packs a punch with one of the state's leading scorers, Jace Johnson.
Class 3A pairings
Delta at Ogden/Ben Lomond, 4 p.m.
Judge Memorial at Dixie, 4 p.m.
Desert Hills at Wasatch, 4 p.m.
Bear River at Payson, 4 p.m.
Pine View at Juan Diego, 4 p.m.
Stansbury at Sp. Fork, 4 p.m.3 comments on this story
Snow Canyon at Ogden/Ben Lomond, 4 p.m.
Park City at Hurricane, 4 p.m.
Note: Region 11 still has games scheduled today.