HEBER CITY — It wasn't about revenge.
Although Wasatch's boys soccer team did find itself matched up against defending champ Dixie — the same team that eliminated the Wasps last season — Wasatch's sole focus in the 3A quarterfinal round centered around finding a way to get past the Flyers and into the semifinals.
It was agonizingly close, but Wasatch's players got the job done.
Wasatch senior goalkeeper Cody Cowley came up huge, and the Wasps beat Dixie 4-2 in a shootout after 100 minutes of regulation and overtime soccer yielded a 3-3 draw.
“We knew this would be our toughest game”, said Domey Espinoza, who scored twice in regulation and converted a penalty kick in the all-important shootout. “I said to everyone at halftime, 'We have to stay in it for another 40 minutes.' When they tied us, I was like, 'Oh no, here we go.' But we’re a great team. We beat a great team today.”
The Flyers got on the board first in less than five minutes off a crafty setup on a corner kick. Being down 1-0 that quickly seemed to wake up the Wasps as the rest of the first half was all Wasatch.
Just two minutes after Dixie’s goal, Espinoza scored on a free kick for Wasatch to tie it up at 1-1.
Both teams moved the ball well and looked for the open man, but Wasatch seemed to penetrate a little more frequently. After several shots on goal failed for the home team, senior Hunter Ketterer jumped over the rest of the bunch crowded in front of the goal and headed in a corner kick from Austin Broadhead.
Before the first half closed, Espinoza added his second goal and the Wasps were riding high with a 3-1 lead in front of a very appreciative home crowd.
It wasn’t until the 19-minute mark in the second half before Dixie found Wasatch out of position and worked its way beyond the defenders and forced in its second goal of the game.
As the crowd became more wound up and the intensity of the players heightened, the Wasps found themselves recipients of two straight yellow cards, sending Ketterer and Espinoza to the bench in back-to-back plays.
Wasatch seemed rattled and the Flyers took advantage, punching in the tying goal with eight minutes left. By the time cooler heads prevailed and the action was back under control regulation had expired.
Two overtime golden goal periods came and went with neither team finding the net.
That set up the shootout. With the once raucous crowd now in grim silence, Dixie converted its first attempt. Espinoza answered.
Dixie’s Caesar Perez, who already had two goals in the game, made his shot. Wasatch’s Cesar Vargas quickly made his kick, evening the score.
Wasatch senior goalkeeper Cowley, firmly set in the middle of the pipes, then changed momentum with a perfect save to his right on Dixie’s next attempt. The crowd erupted and began to chant "Co-dy. Co-dy."
Ketterer was next up for the Wasps and punched his shot through. Then Cowley took his place in the net again and did the unthinkable — he saved a second-straight shot in perfect fashion.
When the Wasps' Broadhead stepped up and placed the ball to the turf, he had a chance to win the game for his team. Broadhead took his shot to the corner past the sprawling Flyer goalie and Wright-Tree Stadium shook with delight.
Cowley, out of breath and emotional after the game, called the moment something he dreamed about all his life.
“These guys play so hard and give it all they’ve got. There was no way I was going to let them down,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable to be in that situation. At first you’re nervous, but then adrenaline kicks in and you just try to step up.”
Wasatch will next face Ogden in the 3A semifinals this coming Friday at Jordan High School.
"We’ll stick to our routine this week,” said an exhausted Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley. “We didn’t play out best soccer game today and Dixie brought it to us. There is much to work on but still a lot to feel good about after this one.”
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To contribute to D-News preps for your area, enquire at 801-237-2143.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company