LAYTON — As the final two weeks of the regular season were crossed off the calendar, the Lancers were heading in the wrong direction.
Three consecutive losses, including a two-goal setback on the road to Weber, which has four wins, threatened to end a promising season with a tailspin.
Instead, the Layton High School boy's soccer team turned it into a learning opportunity.
“We tried to just focus on doing things to lift each other up,” Layton coach Rick Talamantez said. “This is a good region. We weren’t playing badly. We tried to focus on being positive. That’s what you do in life. You try to make the people around you better.”
Without a doubt, that rising tide has lifted the Lancers’ boat.
Carrying through on the momentum of a first-round road win over defending 5A champion Lehi on Tuesday, Layton earned a hustle-filled 4-2 victory over Hunter on Friday afternoon at Layton High School, propelling the Lancers into a semifinal showdown with Region 1 rival Fremont.
“I can’t describe with words how exciting it is to get a chance to play in the semifinals,” Layton senior forward Logan Day said. “We knew that we needed to have a lot intensity on the field today.”
For the opening half-hour of the contest, Hunter matched Layton’s intensity with a nearly unyielding defensive effort.
The Lancers' continued patience and passing were finally the key, and junior forward Davis Walker opened up Layton’s scoring account in the 28th minute, crashing the box hard on the far post to corral a rebounded shot and punch it home for the 1-0 advantage.
“As the game went on, we passed the ball around better,” Day said. “We just tried to keep our intensity up.”
Day doubled up the advantage in the 37th minute when he went up against the Wolverines’ goalkeeper near the 18 and won a 50-50 ball in the air before settling it to his feet and firing it into the empty net to make it 2-0 at the break.
“We’ve had several games this year where we’ve been able to penetrate offensively for a while, but then had nothing to show for it, and then we’d have a letdown,” Talamantez said. “Today we stayed patient; we kept attacking it and were finally able to break through.”
Hunter’s Giovanni Rodas hauled the Wolverines back within striking distance after he calmly converted a penalty into the bottom right corner of the goal just two minutes after the break. Rodas’ goal quickly swung the pendulum of momentum in the match, putting Hunter on the attack and Layton back on its heels.
That momentum, however, was halted just moments later when play was paused for nearly 10 minutes after Layton goalkeeper Isaac Hunter suffered a nasty facial gash during an attempt to clear the ball outside of the box. Just moments after the delay ended, Day scored another pure hustle goal.
Streaking down the left side of the field and into the box, Day beat two Wolverine defenders and the goalkeeper, taking the ball one step off the touch-line near the left 18 and unleashing a shot that curled just around the near post and into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Layton freshman central midfielder Kaden Amano, who drew praise from his coaching staff and teammates for his level-headed play, set up Day’s final goal as he pushed the ball into the deep right corner and floated it perfectly to an oncoming Day, who headed it into the back of the net to make it 4-1.Comment on this story
The Wolverines’ Nathan Gray pulled a goal back for Hunter just two minutes later, but neither team would find the back of the net again.
“Hunter is a good team; they played good soccer from start to finish,” Talamantez said. “Logan is one of our captains and before the game he made sure the players were focused. He went after everything out there today.”
Layton (10-6-1) will be making its fourth 5A semifinal appearance in Talamantez’s 19 years as the team’s head coach. The Lancers are 2-1-0 in those previous appearances, defeating Jordan 4-0 in 2003 and Viewmont 4-2 in 2009.