When the final whistle sounded, Brighton head coach Russ Boyer clapped emphatically while walking toward the middle of the pitch. He was aware of what the Bengals had just accomplished, and wanted to relish the moment before the real work begins.
Brighton played stout defense and used two goals from Seth Frankhauser to cruise past Copper Hills and win the Region 3 title, ensuring the Bengals home field in the first two games of the state tournament.
"It was a state tournament type intensity from both teams," Boyer said. "I thought our team played hard. I'm proud of the way they played."
The first half was a fast-paced up-and-down spectacle. Both Copper Hills and Brighton had multiple chances, with the Grizzlies' Alex Higuera soaring one over the net in the fourth minute of play that caused those in the Copper Hills student section to jump out of their seats. Not to be outdone, Brighton's Matt Coffey rang a left-footed strike off both posts before it was cleared by the Grizzlies.
The Bengals finally got on the board with a rebound by Frankhauser in the 38th minute of play. It was a boost to the team's morale heading into the half.
"Seth's a great player. (He was) in the right place at the right time a couple times today, and that's not abnormal for him," Boyer said. "He's a scrappy player all over the field. He leads our team by example."
Brighton got a second goal just over 11 minutes into the second half off the right foot of Blake Homer. However, just nine minutes later, Copper Hills was awarded a penalty kick after a takedown in the box, and Luis Vargas buried it into the left corner of the net to pull the Grizzlies within one.
"Nothing is easy when you play Copper Hills," Boyer said. "They're a great team and very well coached. We need to figure out how to battle through adversity."
Frankenhauser wasn't a fan of adversity, and tapped in his second goal of the game in the 66th minute to put the Bengals up for good.
"It was definitely well fought," Frankenhauser said. "They (Copper Hills) came out hard in the first 20 minutes and took it to us. But once we settled down, we started playing. Luckily I was there a couple times when the keeper bobbled it."
The win puts Brighton at 9-1 in Region 3 and 15-1 overall. Its lone loss was last month to Alta in double overtime.
Frankenhauser and Boyer both credited the success in the second half to the back line of their defense. Frankenhauser said they put good pressure on the Grizzlies, which led to good scoring chances, and Boyer was impressed with how they responded after giving up the goal to Vargas.
The loss drops Copper Hills to 6-3-1 in Region 3 and 8-4-4 overall. It was a disappointing finish to a promising first half.
"We played pretty well, but we couldn't capitalize on our shots," said Grizzlies defender Tomas Sanchez. "They capitalized on our mistakes. We knew there was a chance of (coming back once we got down), but unfortunately, that didn't happen."