The undefeated and top-ranked Wasatch boys soccer team hosted its first Region 10 game of the season against Judge Memorial on a dreary Wednesday afternoon. Facing its first real test since opening weekend in St. George, Wasatch defeated the Bulldogs, 5-2.
Less than three minutes into the game, Judge was given a red card, which put the Wasps on a power play for the rest of the game.
“That was the main thing I kept stressing to the guys — we’ve got a one man advantage," Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley. “We can just play our game and do things right and we’ll be fine.”
Judge, which was stacking the defense to thwart the potent Wasatch strikers, faced several shots on goal early on before the game settled into the middle of the field.
The Wasp ball handlers were aggressive, though, and found their way back in the face of Bulldog goalkeeper Andrew Matthews.
Wasatch forward Ben Powell, who leads 3A with goals scored at nine, eventually found a seam up the middle, and midfielder Isaac Smedley fed him perfectly for the game's first score at the 22-minute mark in the first half.
Moments later, Powell was on the attack again and just missed the top of the net as Matthews made another one of many incredible saves throughout the game.
As time wore down to the final minutes of the first half, Judge made its way to the Wasp end of the field and got a couple of shots at Wasatch goalie Cody Cowley. The senior co-captain protected his team’s 1-0 lead and the half ended as the rain poured down on Wasatch field.
During the break, Wheatley talked to his squad about making better choices.
The Wasps took heed and came out playing like a top-seeded team.
Eight minutes into the second half, defenseman Hunter Ketterer took a pass at midfield and worked his way through the defense. With dangerous striker Espinoza running along to his right, Ketterer took the ball all the way and beat Matthews for the Wasps' second goal of the game.
The Bulldogs were unable to stop the home team at this point as the Wasps continued to take shot after shot. Just four minutes after Ketterer’s goal, Espinoza was tripped going in for a shot on the left wing and was awarded a penalty kick. The star forward converted for his ninth goal on the year and put his team up 3-0.
Midway through the second half, the Wasp defense made a crucial error. Wasatch allowed forward Moises Diaz some breathing room, and the Bulldog connected on a quick score. A few minutes later, as the visitors continued to work the Wasp end of the field, a Wasatch defender was penalized, giving the Bulldogs a penalty kick. Diaz zipped the ball to the corner past Cowley and brought his team to within a goal.
As if a sleeping giant had been awakened, Wasatch went on the attack for the final 15 minutes of the game. Espinoza added a powerful goal off a deflection just one minute after Judge’s penalty kick. Then Powell put the exclamation point on the game with a goal from the left corner.
Powell’s amazing individual effort put his team up 5-2 with 10 minutes to play.
“Yeah, we could have finished better I thought,” said Espinoza, who was taken out with five minutes to play. “We just make mistakes sometimes that we can avoid. It's great to beat (Judge). They have a great goalie and he was tough today.“
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“If we could avoid the mental lapses that cause us problems in these games, we’ll be fine,” Wheatley said. “We don’t always need to do so much. Just take what they’re giving us and play our game. This was a great win though. We’ll learn from it and it will help us on Friday against Park City.”
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and is a contributor to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org