WEST VALLEY CITY — Pitting the top goalscorer against the goalkeeper with the most shutouts creates a compelling dynamic.
So when Copper Hills striker Connor Thompson went head-to-head with Hunter ‘keeper Justin Motzkus in the 5A boys soccer quarterfinals Friday afternoon, there was bound to be magic.
“I’d just like to congratulate Hunter because I think they played amazing and they gave us a great fight,” said Copper Hills coach Eddie Moura, whose team ultimately prevailed, 2-0, thanks to Thompson’s late-game heroics.
“(Thompson) missed one where he shot it with his left (foot) and it went wide, and I know that he got really frustrated,” Moura said of a Thompson shot attempt late in the second half. “I brought it him out and I said, ‘Calm down. You’re going to come back in and you’re going to score.’”
His coach was right.
In the 68th minute, junior midfielder John Thaller took a shot and Motzkus deflected the ball. However, Thompson corralled the rebound and put in the go-ahead goal.
“His nature is just to be a poacher and just to be there whenever there’s opportunities,” Moura said of Thompson’s nose for the ball. Of Thaller’s initial shot, the coach added,:“I always tell him to shoot and he doesn’t really shoot too much. When he came off (the field), I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Thaller, you shot the ball, and good things happen when you shoot.’”
The goal was Thompson’s 19th of the season. It is a number that currently tops the 5A leaderboard, is tied for 10th-best in the state, and is a Copper Hills team record.
After spending the majority of last season sidelined with injuries, Moura said this year the team captain has more than made up for lost time.
“He’s played with a vengeance,” the coach said. “I told him, ‘This is your year,’ and he said, ‘I’m going to give it everything I have.’ He has the respect of the coaching staff, of every single player on the field — he’s just a great leader for us.”
Thompson also had a part in the Grizzlies’ second goal of the game, which came off the foot of forward Fahat Yogul just four minutes later.
Copper Hills, which finished third in competitive Region 3, recorded a shutout. It was the eighth of the season for the team and the seventh for senior Keaton Gallegos.
“He’s very experienced; he commands the back; he’s very vocal — that’s what I expect from Keaton,” Moura said. “Anytime he goes out, I expect him to give us a shutout, and he was able to do that today. I couldn’t be prouder of him, of his effort.”
With the loss, the Wolverines, who won Region 2, finish the season 13-3-2 overall. Motzkus, who leads 5A in shutouts, leading scorer Kendall Taylor and coach Larry Garahana led the team past the first round of the playoffs for just the second time since 2001.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies improve to 10-4-4 overall and will meet Bingham — a team they beat 3-0 in March — in the semifinals at Woods Cross on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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