High school boys soccer: Rowland Hall uses strong first half to earn spot in 2A championship
DRAPER — When the Rowland Hall soccer team is fully healthy, it is one of the most electric and dangerous teams in all of 2A.
Injuries had plagued Rowland Hall for the majority of the 2014 season. However, with a healthy lineup, the Winged Lions dominated their semifinal match against Parowan Friday afternoon, cruising past the Rams 4-0 at Juan Diego High School to earn a spot in the 2A title match.
“We have been injured all season and this is the first time our entire team has been on the field (together),” Rowland Hall senior Michael Thompson said of his squad’s injury-plagued season. “We are finally starting to get some chemistry going by playing well together in practice, so we are just working hard, and it is really paying off.”
Paying off is it ever.
Rowland Hall has now won six straight contests — three of which have come in the playoffs — and is on its way to its best season and first state championship berth since 2009.
“It was a great victory and Parowan fought really hard. I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Rowland Hall head coach Scott Langone said of the win. “We scored three goals in the first half, but I think we left something out there (on the field). In the second half, even though we only scored once, I think we were able to play a little bit better soccer, and I’m really proud of ‘em. It’s been a great year.”
Thompson and Baranko were fantastic all game long, as their impressive ball-handling skills and combined three goals anchored the Green and White in the win.
“We’ve just got a group of guys who really want to play hard with each other and play for each other,” Langone said of his team’s impressive start. “They came out tonight with a little fire in ‘em, and I am just really proud of them.”
The 2A South champs had plenty of opportunities to put the ball in the net, but the strong play of Ted Janes between the posts helped Rowland Hall extend its lead in the second half.
The Winged Lions played intense defense throughout the second half until Thompson was able to break free and find the back of the net for the second time of the day to help Rowland Hall cruise to the 4-0 victory.
“We knew that we had an advantage coming in, because we had been playing really well all year, especially as of late,” added Thompson on the win. “We knew that if we just played our game we would win this game.”
Rowland Hall moves on to the 2A championship match, where it will take on region foe Waterford Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Waterford won both of the two teams' regular-season meetings by a combined score of 2-0. The Winged Lions and Ravens are set to square off at 1:30 pm.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724