SALT LAKE CITY — When East High's Hugo Olivera scored on a long-distance laser in the opening minutes of Friday's 4A state quarterfinal clash against Box Elder, the visiting Bees immediately looked like they might be in trouble.
After all, the Leopards had given up more than one goal only once all season on their way to piling up a superb 16-1 overall record and sweeping the Region 6 championship.
Apparently, though, somebody forgot to tell those feisty young men from Box Elder about the challenging predicament they were in.
Preston Faerber scored a momentum-changing goal for the Bees just before halftime, and freshman Trevan Watson scored twice after that — the decisive game-clincher coming in the 93rd minute of a tense double-overtime duel to give Box Elder a 3-2 victory and vault the Bees into next week's 4A semifinals.
Watson wasn't sure if that was the biggest goal of his young life, but he knew it ranked mighty high.
"I don't know, I've scored some pretty important goals, but that one was pretty important," he said. "I'm not a goal-scorer, the team is the goal-scorer. Whatever it takes for the team to win, I'm happy with."
Box Elder, which improved to 14-3-1 overall with Friday's dramatic win, will be making its first state semifinal appearance when it faces Skyline next Tuesday at 1:45 p.m. at Woods Cross High.
"East is a fantastic team," Box Elder coach Nate Bywater said. "... What you saw was just a battle of two good teams. It could've gone either way, and we got the luck of the bounce today.
"The thing that you try and build in any of your teams is character. There's the whole sports cliche of they build character, but I think it's true, right? We're down early and you saw the character of our team. They said whatever, we're gonna go after this, it's the playoffs — we lose we go home, we win we go forward. You know what? We work our butts off and let's leave it here on the field. It's not worth anything on the bus."
Coach Bywater was impressed by Watson's performance, and that of his entire team.
"He's got a pretty good future ahead of him," Bywater said of Watson. "He plays a lot of ball in the offseason and has a lot of experience, and that's why I trust him in there. I'm very comfortable with him playing as a freshman and starting.
"Not many freshmen get that chance at Box Elder, so they've got to not only have the skill but have the soccer brains, and he showed it today — very calm. He's been doing a really good job for us all season long.
"We come from a smaller market, and to be able to take these guys here with their talents and their abilities — to do this on this stage is huge for our program,” he said of the win.
After Olivera got the Leopards on the scoreboard quickly, the two teams battled on even but physical terms until late in the first half. That's when Faerber took a ball deep in East's end of the field and deposited it into the bottom left corner of the net to tie it at 1-1 at intermission.
"As soon as we put that one goal in, we just saw the momentum (shift)," Faerber said. "We were getting lots of chances and we said to ourselves, 'We're gonna get this game.'
"It's exciting; I can't wait," he said of next week's semifinals. "We're just gonna get ready for Tuesday and get ready to go."
Watson put Box Elder ahead 2-1 in the 51st minute when he broke loose down the right sideline and fired a left-footed screamer into the net from about 30 yards out.3 comments on this story
Shortly thereafter, Eduardo Macias appeared to have scored on a header for the Bees, but officials ruled the ball did not cross the goal line — a decision that incensed one Box Elder fan so much he was instructed to leave the stadium.
That play grew even bigger when Olivera corraled a loose ball in front of the Bees' net and sent a shot into the back of it in the 78th minute to tie it at 2-2.
But after one scoreless, 10-minute overtime period, Watson's shot settled things almost three minutes into the second OT.