DRAPER — The first penalty kick of Michael Peterson's high school career may very well end up being the most memorable of his life. With top-ranked Manti locked in a 3-3 tie during a shootout against No. 2 St. Joseph, it all came down to Peterson to end the drawn-out match and send his team back to the 2A state championship game.
He calmed his nerves, focused on doing what he'd done hundreds of times in practice and ultimately sent his team into a postgame frenzy with a well-placed kick that found the back of the net.
"I just looked at the one side and kicked it in on the other," said Peterson, whose team won the shootout 4-3 after Friday's semifinal showdown — a rematch of last year's 2A championship game — finished in a 1-1 draw. "I felt a little bit of pressure at first, but I calmed down. I wanted it so bad and this feels so great."
Peterson certainly wasn't the only hero for the defending 2A state champions. Penalty kicks were also made by Carlo Garcia, Juan Frutos and Marco Almanza, and Manti goalkeeper Dillon Rasmussen made stops to set up the game-winning situation for Peterson.
Just as it was Peterson's first penalty kick, it was Rasmussen's first time as a goalkeeper in a shootout.
"To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure how Dillon would respond with it being his first time," said Manti coach Gerald Wayman. "He stepped up big time, just as he has all game and just as he has all year. I couldn't be more proud of him."
Any nerves felt by Rasmussen were likely put away after blocking away St. Joseph's first attempt, which immediately gave Manti the advantage in the decisive shootout. The senior goalie correctly guessed on a kick to the left and that's exactly what happened.
"I knew that I needed to do something great for my team and our fans," Rasmussen said. "There were a lot of nerves, but those nerves went away and getting that first save really helped and it was like being struck by lightning. I just knew they were going to try to kick it left and that's where I went and it worked out."
The game was a hard-fought defensive struggle throughout, despite two early goals scored by each side. St. Joseph started the scoring by way of a goal from Takuya Ishikawa in the ninth minute. Manti's Juan Frutos immediately responded with a goal of his own three minutes later to tie the game at 1-1.
From that point on, both teams battled before the game ultimately was decided by a shootout.
"They executed a great defensive game plan and it was tough for us and we had to be patient with it," said Wayman.
Manti finished the second 10-minute overtime period with a flourish — just missing on three attempts in the final four minutes. Ultimately, however, the Templars' offensive frustration turned to elation after Rasmussen's heroics and Peterson's winning kick.
"We're a family and we do everything for each other because we're a family," Rasmussen said. "We knew if we came together and kept playing for each other that we'd come out on top."
With the win Manti advances to the 2A state championship where it will take on American Leadership Academy at 11 a.m. inside Rio Tinto Stadium.
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