I couldn't even imagine what it was going to be like playing here (at Rio Tinto Stadium). —David Ignacio
SANDY — The Dixie Flyers woke up smiling, according to head coach Burt Myers, excited to play and "astonished" at the opportunity to compete for a state championship title at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Eighty minutes after taking the field, those smiles were much, much bigger. In fact, after such an incredible playoff run — a run that included a semifinal victory over top—ranked Wasatch — its doubtful they'll be leaving anytime soon.
The Flyers handed the Wasatch Wasps their second loss in 36 games on Friday, 2-1 before hoisting the trophy on Saturday with the 1-0 victory over an incredibly talented Juan Diego team.
"The feeling right now … the kids … to see their faces and their smiles," Myers said. "Holy cow, that's the best reward a coach can get. You know, the trophies are in the cases but these smiles [are] what it's all about."
The memorable finish was much sweeter for the Flyers after narrow semifinal losses in 2010 and 2011.
"Amazing," David Ignacio exclaimed as he described his post game feelings. "We have been working for this for a very long time. We deserved it too. I thought we were never going to make it this far and when we won yesterday, I couldn't even imagine what it was going to be like playing here."
Cesar Gutierrez, nicknamed "Beckham" by his teammates, found himself at the bottom of a celebratory dog pile when he fired in the game winner in the 32nd minute.
Devin Bennett received the corner and sent it a little too steep, but Gutierrez was there for the clean up, coming in at an angle and tucking it in for the 1-0 advantage.
"Very awesome," Gutierrez said of the finish, as teammates chanted his name behind him. "We worked really hard for this … we accomplished our goals."
The Flyers held on for the win with a more controlled second half, according to Myers. The coach attributed the win to his entire team, pointing out the efforts of several players.
"It's hard to pick out a definite star," Myers said. "You have these kids and they're just gelling at the right time."
Juan Diego posted several near-miss attempts in the nail-biting loss. Adam Richardson, who finished with 18 goals on the season, sent one sailing over the top bar with 10 minutes remaining, and Andrew Montoya had a handful of close calls earlier in the contest.
Despite the Soaring Eagle efforts, the Flyers were unyielding and goalkeeper Tristan Cowles earned his 12th shutout of the season.
Cowles modestly attributed a great deal of his success to a stalwart defensive line.3 comments on this story
"We have a great back line," he said. "They work really hard day in and day out. They are my backbone. They are the ones that earn the shutouts."
The Flyers finished with an impressive 17-3 overall record, outscoring opponents 52-10.
"It's cool because we're winning it for all of southern Utah," Ignacio said. "Not just us, we're representing everyone else."