CLEARFIELD — If not for a quick goal five minutes into the first round of the girls' 4A soccer match, Clearfield and Olympus very well could still be playing.
At the 5:15 mark in the first half, Clearfield's freshman forward Brinley Adams instinctively took the throw-in – catching Olympus off-guard and confused. She placed it perfectly for fellow freshman Afton Barlow, who suddenly found herself in an unexpected 1-on-2 fast break situation.
Barlow quickly shifted direction to separate from one defender, then immediately crossed over the second. With only the goalie left to beat, she drooped a soft floater to the opposite corner in what ultimately proved to be the winning goal in a 1-0 victory.
"You never know — the first five minutes and that's what won us the game," said Clearfield coach Lauren Clifford. "I was actually kind of looking and it was our forward that took the throw in, and we never have that happen."
With the win, the Falcons (9-6-1) advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
"To get over that hump — it's amazing," Clifford said. "The whole season that's been their goal — just to do something different instead of hitting that wall and the season's over. I think they all came out with the right attitude, they were all super excited for this game, and they made it happen."
Entering the game, Clearfield's defensive strategy primarily surrounded Olympus' Whitney Back, who ranked third in 4A with 15 goals. The back four rose to the challenge. Jannae Deveraux and Sam Lovell, the two center backs, blanketed Back while Kristen Strawn and Kelsee Bone offered additional support.
The plan worked as Olympus (5-11-1) struggled to find any rhythm without Back.
"They did amazing," Clifford said. "I know (Back) scored almost all of their goals and going into it we knew we had to shut her down and Jannae couldn't have done a better job. Defensively, our back four, they were a family today — they played so well together."
The growth of the defense, along with keeper Kaitlyn Stratton, who Clifford referred to as the team MVP after she notched her fifth shutout of the season, has continued to improve as the season has progressed.
"Towards the end of the season they've started to mesh well together and this game it finally pieced together," Clifford said. "They were in sync on every little thing they did."
Clearfield will face the top seed from Region 5, Bonneville (15-2) that won its 13th straight against Orem in the first round, at 4 p.m.