SANDY — The Waterford Ravens have been dominant all season.
A year after bowing out in the first round of the 2A state tournament, the 2014 2A North champions lost just two matches all year and shut out 11 opponents before stepping onto the field at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday afternoon.
And in the championship spotlight, the Ravens did it again.
With just three minutes left in overtime, junior Jesse Sindelar set up at the far post, got his head on the Waterford corner kick, and sent the ball to the back of the net for the 2-1 victory over region foe Rowland Hall.
"That's my spot on that back post," Sindelar said after his team accepted the championship trophy. "I've gotten one or two this season on that so I was just (thinking), 'if it comes there, I'm going to get it.' It came right to me, I didn't even think about it, I just headed it right in."
The Ravens cleared their bench and met Sindelar at midfield to celebrate the golden goal. However, while his well-timed header was exciting, seeing him come through in a crucial moment was not unexpected.
"Jesse has just been clutch for us all year," said head coach George Shirley. "Just a huge transition for him from last year to this year as far as being able to put it on frame."
Even though it took extra time, the coach was pleased with how his team played and executed its game plan during crunch time.
"These guys have been great all year," said Shirley. "They haven't had to come back too many times, but when those opportunities have presented themselves, we've been able to take care of business."
As usual, the Ravens jumped out to an early lead. They scored the first goal in the 13th minute when sophomore Sean Keough controlled a pass and then sent the ball to the back right corner of the net.
Waterford held onto that lead through the halftime break and across the next 65 minutes of play before Rowland Hall scored the equalizer. With just five minutes remaining, Enzo Wiener, a senior defender for the Winged Lions, sent a shot high and to the middle of the net, the Waterford goalkeeper knocked it down, and the ball rolled across the goal line.
"I'm always nervous when we play these guys," said Shirley. "They play good, clean, pretty soccer, and I think that was a great showcase today. As far as defending goes, they have some real attacking weapons up top."
The Ravens, the 2A North champions, defeated Rowland Hall, the 2A North runner-up, by a score of 1-0 twice during the regular season. With the championship victory, they accomplished the difficult feat of beating the same team three times in the same season.
"We were lucky enough to get the better end of them two other times," said Shirley. "I hate to play them a third time, especially a team as well-coach and well-disciplined as they are, because they know us that well too."
Standing at the end of the season and looking back on what he and his team accomplished, Shirley could not help but grin, knowing all the effort that was put in throughout the year paved the way to the championship celebration.
"It really feels great because I have never been around a group of kids that worked this hard, this long," he said. "There's never any animosity in our team. Everybody gets along, everybody plays together, they play for each other, and it paid off today in a big way."
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.