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High school soccer: No. 1-ranked Bengals looking for 5A crown

Published: Monday, May 14 2012 11:03 p.m. MDT

Alta's keeper #1 AJ Snell, left, punches the ball away, Alta's #2 Brookston Jeppson, center, tries to keep Brighton's #21 Skyler Milne away from the ball as Brighton and Alta play Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at Brighton. Brighton won 1-0.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The 5A state playoffs kick off Tuesday with a number of familiar teams vying for the state title.

For Brighton and Alta, a playoff run is more than plausible. The powerhouse programs rarely miss a trip to the playoffs and have met in the championship contest twice in the last six years.

The No. 1-ranked Bengals boast an incredible 14-1 record and are headed into the tournament on a 13-game win streak.

Offensive play is well distributed, providing strength in depth. Matthew Coffey leads with 10 goals, while Skyler Milne and Taylor Fankhauser combine for 16. Milne provides unparalleled leadership and is unstoppable out of the air.

The Hawks, the defending champs from 2011, are contenders despite the youthful and somewhat inexperienced roster with just two seniors. A "building year" for coach Lee Mitchell's program, however, is not your typical building year.

Mitchell runs a tight ship, and no matter the roster, the Hawks are a tough draw come playoff time. They are the No. 3 seed in Region 3 with an 11-4-1 record.

If they are able to make a run, however, they'll have to first go through the mighty Davis Darts. The Darts present a well-balanced roster with several scorers and nine shutouts on the defensive end. The two are set to play Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Whoever the victor, a quarterfinal challenge awaits if the No. 1 seed from Region 4, the Lone Peak Knights are able to oust Hunter — the No. 4 seed from Region 2.

"The boys have come together really well," Lone Peak head coach Blaine Hale said. "Unity is the core to our success."

The Knights have seven seniors and several capable underclassmen, providing the perfect mix of veteran leadership and fresh talent. "It changes every game," Hale said concerning which players step up. "One of our strengths is our depth."

Cameron McLaughlin is a formidable threat up front, leading with 12 goals. Kaden Killpack, along with a stalwart back line, has earned nine shutouts.

The Knights bear a near perfect record, highly resembling that of the Bengals. Both suffered early losses before going on remarkable win streaks. Lone Peak has been hot on the heels of the Bengals all season long but has not had the chance to meet them head on.

Further north are the No. 3-ranked Weber Warriors.

With some of the state's leading scorers, and a knack for rallying late in the game, the Warriors have been virtually impossible to topple.

They certainly pose the greatest threat from Region 1, posting impressive figures and finishing the regular season with a 13-1-2 record, as they have gone unbeaten since their opening loss to Roy.

"They never quit," head coach Jan Swift said, noting his team's rally against Fremont, overcoming a 3-0 deficit for the 5-3 victory.

Tyler Murdock and Kenny Gordon — the No. 1 and No. 3 scorers in Class 5A — lead the way for the Warriors. Parker Dixon and Jaden Bybee solidify the middle, while the defense looks to a whole slew of talented players, including: Zach Barker, Colby Wight and goalkeeper Joe Wheelwright with eight shutouts.

"They work for each other, stay focused, and work hard in practice as well as games. They have great attitudes," Swift said.

The Warriors possess the ball extremely well, moving it quickly and finding ample opportunity at the net. The speedy squad has outscored opponents 63 to 11, scoring more goals than any other team in Class 5A.

"I think we'll be competitive," Swift said. "On any given day, any given team can beat anybody. We just have to be prepared."

Bingham has also been tough all year, handing top-ranked Brighton its only loss before defeating Alta in double overtime. The Miners suffered region losses from Lone Peak and Lehi.

The Lehi Pioneers are set to take on Taylorsville, the No. 3 seed from Region 2, and should emerge unscathed. The Pioneers are led by Landon Jacobsen with nine goals. They have picked up several big victories but dropped both region games to the Knights.

Viewmont and Copper Hills are contenders as well. Copper Hills has proven capable of holding its own against the big dogs, and Viewmont's near flawless record is testament to its contending capabilities.

The Vikings are led by Jeromy Heward. Heward has scored 16 goals to compliment nine shutouts for the Viking defense.

email: jwilde@desnews.com

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