SALT LAKE CITY — Rowland Hall's boys soccer team earned a home game in the opening round of the 2A state tournament by finishing second in the 2A North region.
Throughout the regular season, the Winged Lions played — and competed with and even beat — some of the top teams from the northern half of the state.
Still, Winged Lion coach Scott Langone and his team were wary of the visiting Grand County squad.
"They have a history of being a great program," he said. "We just wanted to come in and play as hard as we could and hope to get the victory."
The plan worked as Rowland Hall used a goal-heavy first half to take control of the contest, defeating the Red Devils 5-1 to advance to the quarterfinals and a meeting with defending champion American Leadership Academy.
"I thought in the first half we played extraordinary," Langone said of his offense that scored four goals in the first 40 minutes.
The first, which came in the 11th minute, was scored by senior Junior Zoutomou. It was followed by back-to-back scores my senior Michael Thompson.
Thompson's first goal, which was sent to just inside the right post, came in the 23rd minute, and his second, which was scored on a rebound following a diving save by Grand County goalkeeper Layton Call, was in the 29th minute.
Just before half, senior Kyle Baranko netted his fifth goal of the season when he used the gusting winds to his advantage and sent a corner kick into the net.
"We had a few things we really needed to improve on in that first half and I thought overall we played pretty extraordinary," Langone said, adding that the Winged Lions were focused on "getting the ball wide, playing the feet, moving quickly, making some combinations, finding some space in between their backs, and we did OK with that."
The Red Devils entered the second half with a newfound spark led by senior defender Jacob Francis and junior Andrew Hugentobler. With just one goal apiece in the final 40 minutes, Grand played Rowland Hall even the rest of the way.
Enzo Wiener recorded the Winged Lions' final goal from straight on in the 64th minute, while Grand junior Austin Pyatt scored from the right sideline, lofting the ball over the defense and into the net in the 75th minute.
"I knew they would be really well-coached, they always are," Langone said of the Red Devils. "I knew going in they would be a great competitor and great opponent. It's a good, classy organization and I always look forward to playing Grand."
The Winged Lions will travel Saturday to play American Leadership in a 1 p.m. start. The Eagles defeated Beaver, 8-0, in the opening round.
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.