SANDY — When Brighton senior Matthew Coffey gains control of the ball, the opposing defense is usually in trouble.
The senior forward took over in the 35th minute of the Bengals’ matchup with Region 3 rival Alta at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday evening, and set up the only goal of the game in Brighton's 1-0 victory.
“We strung a few passes together and then got it on Coffey’s foot — and he’s very dangerous with the ball on his foot,” Brighton coach Russ Boyer said, recalling the scoring sequence.
Coffey controlled the ball outside of the box and then attacked the center of the field. He dribbled into the box and was fouled from behind.
“It was a clear penalty, and he earned it just by beating the guy inside the box,” Boyer added. Senior Ben Perkins scored the goal on the ensuring penalty kick, sending the ball past Alta goalkeeper Dylan McIllece and into the back of the net.
After 42 ensuing minutes of scoreless soccer, the Hawks had an opportunity to tie the game with just three minutes remaining on the clock. Just as the ball was about to cross the goal line, however, Brighton goalkeeper Kolton Savage came up big.
“He made a tremendous, highlight-reel save there the one that he punched over the crossbar,” Boyer said. It was the senior’s third shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.
“He was very solid on those balls playing in on Alta’s set pieces,” Boyer added. “He directed the backs; he does a great job communicating; and he played a great game.”
The top-ranked Bengals (7-0-0, 1-0-0) remain undefeated and grab an early advantage in the region standings while handing No. 3 Alta (5-1-0, 1-1-0) its first loss of the season. Boyer was pleased with the win, especially because it didn’t come easy.
“That was a hard-fought game, a great game, a typical Brighton-Alta game,” he said. “We created a lot of chances. We were unlucky on a few of them, but man, what a hard-fought game.”
The Bengals recorded nine shots compared to six from Alta; the Hawks had four shots on goal compared to two by Brighton, both of which ricocheted off the center of the crossbar.
“It’s encouraging. It’s frustrating,” Boyer said of watching two good-looking attempts float a little high with the game still locked in a scoreless tie. “We’d like them to go in, obviously, but that’s just a matter of inches. It’s encouraging that we’re getting those kinds of looks.”
The 5A squads fundraised for the opportunity to play at Rio Tinto Stadium, seeking the experience in a large stadium and preparing for what they hope will be another chance to play on the professional field.
“Just to play on this pitch and to have the whole experience, the locker rooms ... it’s quite a big deal,” Boyer said. “We also like to do it so (we) can get a game on here. This is where the championship game is played, so we like to have a game under our belt as we try to get back here for the finals.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org