DRAPER — Levi Lopez has been doing it all year for American Leadership Academy, and he came through again in his team’s 4-1 win over Summit Academy in the 2A semifinals Friday. The senior star dominated midfield from start to finish and saved his best for last — scoring twice in the final 17 minutes — to vault his team into the 2A state championship game.
“He plays like that every game — he’s awesome,” said ALA coach Steve Solen about Lopez, who finished with a hat trick. “He was the difference in the game, I felt.”
Lopez started the scoring for the Eagles, taking a well-placed cross from Hector Martinez to put the ball in the back of the net in the 13th minute, but Summit managed to tie it at 1-1 just 2 1/2 minutes later courtesy of a Zack Stoddard goal.
The teams shared relatively equal possession for most of the first half until a Summit blitz over the last four minutes. The Bears failed to connect on at least four prime scoring chances during that stretch, but the sequence left the Eagles reeling at halftime.
“We struggled that first half,” Solen said. “We weren’t connecting passes and we were playing a little frustrated, I felt.”
Solen switched up his defensive schemes a bit in the second half and his team responded well. The Eagle defense held Summit in check and prevented the bevy of scoring chances that defined the final four minutes of the first half.
The teams traded scoring chances for much of the second half until the final 20 minutes, which saw ALA completely control the game. First, Cobi Warren, who played sparingly due to a gimpy ankle, got things going for the Eagles with a breakaway goal in the 63rd minute to give his team a 2-1 lead.
Lopez scored just 1 1/2 minutes later and then again in the 76th minute to give his team a 4-1 lead, which proved to be the final score.
“I think the thing that really (won) this thing for us was that we were more conditioned that they were,” Solen said. “In the second half we started connecting on our passes. ... The conditioning really came through for us during the final 20 minutes and that’s when our goals came. ... Cobi Warren scored that first goal, then Levi scored and it was just sort of a domino effect for our team after that.”
Despite the relatively comfortable margin of victory, Solen was quick to credit Summit with its play.
“(Summit) controlled the ball better than us for most of the game,” Solen said. “I’m not going to lie — that didn’t look like a 4-1 game. They are a great team, but we were able to put just a little more in the back of the net.”
With the win the Eagles advance to the 2A state championship at Rio Tinto Stadium. They will take on defending champion Manti at 11 a.m. Saturday.