It's going to be a grudge match. There are a lot of really good teams. We hope to take advantage of the position we put ourselves in with a home game. —Bingham coach Matt Kennaley
With just three matches left in the regular season, the Bingham boys soccer team traveled to Alta and experienced something it hadn't all season long.
"We knew they had been playing well," Bingham coach Matt Kennaley said of the Hawks. "Going up there is no small challenge anyway, plus it was senior night."
The Hawks upended the Miners, 2-0, giving them a major shock just two weeks before the start of the 5A state tournament.
"We knew we would be playing a fired-up team, but we did not equal their emotion," the coach said. "We learned a lot from that. We learned that we have to rise up and play every single game."
The Miners subsequently regained their footing, fired back with two consecutive victories (one over Brighton, 1-0, and one over West Jordan, 7-0), and are fully prepared for the first round of the state playoffs, which begin Tuesday.
"It's going to be a grudge match," Kennaley said of his tournament outlook. "There are a lot of really good teams. We hope to take advantage of the position we put ourselves in with a home game."
As the Region 3 champion, Bingham (9-1-0, 13-1-1 overall) will host its opening game against Hunter, the fourth seed from Region 2, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Wolverines (4-5-1, 8-5-3) have had an up-and-down season, trading wins with region foes but losing by just a single goal to Region 2 champion Taylorsville in both matches.
"Hunter is a very good team with very skilled guys," Kennaley said. "They've dealt with injures, but — at this point in the season — who hasn't?"
Nathan Gray leads Hunter in scoring with 10 goals and Nick Cabral has added five. Sophomore Justin Motzkus is back in goal for the Wolverines and totaled three shutouts during the regular season.
"They have a lights-out goalkeeper," said Kennaley, "and we're excited to test ourselves against someone with skills like his."
The Miners, meanwhile, continue to depend on a plethora of offensive weapons. Thirteen different players have scored goals this season for Bingham, led by Daniel Blancher's six and Gage Davis' five.
"The team has played amazing together this year," the Bingham coach said. "We have been dependent on no one kid; we have had equal contribution all the way across."
The Miners' defense has been anchored by Mark Stanley in goal. His 7 1/2 shutouts so far rank third on the 5A leaderboard. Also standing out on the defensive end is Braxton Ramirez, a senior who has scored a goal from the back line.
"He has been strong all year," Kennaley said, "and that is his status quo. He is ultra-reliable, a very calming influence and very sure leading the defense."
Leading 5A in the shutout category is Viewmont senior Porter May, who has recorded nine so far while leading his team to the Region 1 title. The Vikings will host American Fork (6-6-0, 6-10-0), the No. 4 seed from Region 4.Comment on this story
The classification's best scorer, Luis Vargas, has totaled 17 goals so far and will lead Copper Hills, No. 3 from Region 3, against West, No. 2 from Region 2, for the second time this season. In the first meeting, back on March 25, the Grizzlies held a 2-0 lead at halftime but let the Panthers score three times in the second half before ultimately winning, 4-3, in overtime. Vargas tallied a hat trick in that match.
Alta placed second in Region 3 and will host Granger, the third-place team from Region 2, for the first time this season. Region 4 champion Riverton and leading scorer Brett Smith (10 goals) will host Davis, the fourth-place team from Region 1, while Region 2 champion Taylorsville and Eduardo Munoz (eight goals) will host Brighton, the fourth seed from Region 3.
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.