All season long, two teams — Brighton and Alta — have been at the forefront of the 5A soccer conversation.
Now that it is state tournament time, however, Hunter coach Larry Garahana says all bets are off.
“This is a whole new ball game,” he said. “These teams are the cream of the crop.”
The Wolverines vaulted from being in the middle of the pack the last two seasons to Region 2 champions this year on a league record of 8-1-1 and an overall record of 12-2-2.
“We are not typically known as a powerhouse,” Garahana continued. “It’s an honor being up there, but we also feel we deserve to be there.”
Hunter is led by a solid defense that is anchored by freshman goalkeeper Justin Motzkus. The group has allowed just 10 goals all season and currently leads 5A with nine shutouts.
“He has done exceptionally well,” Garahana said of Motzkus. “With every game, he is becoming more and more comfortable. He is soaking up (coaching) and he is a great student, too.”
Eight different players have scored for the Wolverines, led by Kendall Taylor’s nine goals and Raul Cavazos’ seven goals.
Brighton remains at the top of the pack after earning its Region 3 title with a league record of 9-1-0 and an overall record of 15-1-0. The Bengals lost only to region foe Alta in double overtime at the end of April.
Brighton has had goals from 14 different players, led by Matt Coffey with nine and Ben Perkins with eight, and shutouts from four different goalkeepers, led by Kolton Savage with 5.5. The Bengals will host Region 4's Riverton Tuesday in the first round of the state tournament.
The Alta roster boasts of the current second-leading scorer in 5A in Marshall Miller, who leads the Hawks (8-2-0, 14-2-0) with 15 goals. Alta will host Bingham, the third-place team out of Region 4, in the playoffs.
Layton, the top team out of Region 1, will host West, and Region 4 champion Lehi will meet Jordan.
Hunter will host Northridge, the fourth seed from Region 1, Tuesday. The Knights earned the spot with a victory over defending champion Davis last Friday.
“The whole Region 1 is tough, so it should be a good game,” Garahana said. “It’s nice to have home field advantage. That always helps.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.