SALT LAKE CITY — East boys soccer coach Rudy Schenk was worried heading into Tuesday’s high-stakes matchup with Bountiful.
Both teams were at the top of the 4A rankings.
The outcome of the match would alter the Region 6 standings.
Giant wind gusts were impacting the flight of the ball.
And, most worrisome, Schenk’s team had not played in 11 days.
While the Braves were practicing and competing last week, the Leopards were on spring break.
“I was really worried about conditioning and touch and all those kinds of things,” said Schenk, whose team scored two unanswered goals midway through the second half to record a big 2-1 victory.
“It’s always a grudge match with Bountiful,” he said. “We have a good rivalry that goes back a long time and they’ve owned us in the past couple of years. Our guys got fired up and came out and played hard.”
After an uneventful first half, the Braves struck first with a goal in the 48th minute after Bountiful's Alex Simpson and East goalkeeper Jack Thompson collided going for a ball. Simpson controlled the possession and, with Thompson on the ground, found himself in front of an empty net.
Just two minutes later, Erick Olivas tied the score when he buried a penalty kick and then, just two minutes after that, Olivas put the Leopards up for good with a shot to the left corner of the net.
“I was proud of my guys,” Schenk said. “We got down and we bounced back, got on them, and then held on.”
Bountiful had multiple opportunities to retie the score, including one shot that found the net but was called back for a foul that occurred prior to the goal. That play resulted in a yellow card, one of more than a handful given out in the contest, including one to the Braves’ coaches. The game also included a red card, which was given to a Bountiful player for inappropriate language on the field.
Bountiful coach Lou Plank was not pleased with the performance of the officials, a sentiment he said he would have expressed even if his team had come back and won.
“The cards, there’s no excuse for the cards,” he said. “Kids were running their mouths, my kid swore and got that card and should have. But it’s symptomatic of incompetent reffing.”
All of boys soccer has been at the center of attention recently because of a high number of player and coach ejections. Region 6, of which Bountiful and East are members, has been in the middle of that discussion following an incident during a Highland-Clearfield game that left one student in the hospital and another in jail.
“Region 6 has a referee problem,” said Plank, who added that, according to his statistics, there was a six-to-one foul ratio in the match with East. “It’s big. It’s a big problem."
The win gave the Leopards, now 9-1-0 in region play, some separation at the top of the league standings. They now have 27 points to the Braves’ 21 and own any potential tiebreakers with two victories over Bountiful this season.
The Braves, on the other hand, fell to 7-3 in Region 6 and 7-5 overall.
“I was really proud of my guys for keeping composure,” Schenk said. “I thought that, for us, that was a big difference in the game. We kept our composure, we kept playing hard, and I think that made a big difference.”
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.