HIGHLAND — Indirect free kicks deep inside the 18-yard box are always unusual, and Copper Hills faced two of them while clinging to a one-goal lead in the final minutes against Lone Peak in the opening round of the 5A tournament Tuesday.
The Grizzlies, however, managed to keep the ball out of the net on both occasions. As a result, they held on for a pulsating 1-0 victory over Lone Peak.
The Grizzlies won despite Lone Peak getting off far more shots on goal. Copper Hills relied on its defensive backline time and time again right up until the very end.
Twice Copper Hills was called for an off-ball infraction in the box — not enough to merit a penalty kick, but sufficient to award the Knights attempts less than 20 yards from goal.
Both times Michael Brady and goalkeeper Keaton Gallegos led the defense in foiling the attempts, preserving the team's one-goal lead established by Alex Higuera in the first half.
"On the first one I came up big, got it out," Gallegos said. "On the second one, Connor Thompson comes up huge, deflects it out and it's out. We played through it."
"Keaton's a guy who's played a lot of club, so he's well-prepared for the challenge," Grizzlies head coach Eddie Moura said. "Today he stepped up, especially with the two indirects we had over there. He just commanded the guys on the ball and was able to make a huge save for us."
Copper Hills overcame an aggressive start by the Knights, dominating the latter portion of the first half with possession time. The Grizzlies were rewarded when Higuera corralled the ball on the right side and, with two defenders pressing in, grounded the ball into the net.
Lone Peak nearly tied the game on several occasions, including back-to-back two-man plays while streaking down the left side of the field. Both shots attempts, however, veered wide left.
Again the Knights nearly knotted the score on a Tyler Allison header attempt, only to see the ball sail just high of the crossbar.
The Knights' first shot on goal ended up being the closest they would come to scoring: a left-side boot from Michael Smith that clanged off the crossbar.
"This game was really intense. Lone Peak had a lot of scary chances. Those two indirects in the box, those were really scary. Overall both teams did good. We just had one shot that happened to go in."
"We just need to defend harder," Brady added. "Our midfield, we were getting eaten up there, but we did good enough throughout the game to get the victory."
The Grizzlies will play at Hunter in the 5A state quarterfinals on Friday at 4 p.m.
Matt Petersen is the sports web editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.
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