WOODS CROSS — Bountiful goalkeeper Josh Ludlow came up big for the Braves in their 4A semifinal matchup against top-ranked Murray on Tuesday evening.
Not only did the senior make huge saves to send the game into overtime and then block three crucial penalty kicks to extend the deciding shootout, he also made the match-winning penalty kick to send his school to the 4A championship game.
“By far he was the player of our game tonight,” Bountiful coach Lou Plank said after his team edged the Spartans 5-4 in penalty kicks after playing to a 3-3 tie through double overtime.
Each team made three of its first five penalty kicks, as Ludlow and Murray ‘keeper Tanner Critchfield both came up with critical stops. Braves defender Dave Higginson and Murray forward Chad Pierson both made their attempts to extend the shootout, and it put Ludlow back on the spot — this time in front of the goal.
“I’ve practiced my PKs,” he said afterward, “so I didn’t feel a lot of pressure.”
The ‘keeper placed the ball in the back of the net and then returned to the goal to block the final Murray attempt and secure the victory.
“He’s been like that all season where he’s just been frickin’ world class,” Plank said. “Every time we needed a big save he just has ice in his veins.”
However, Ludlow would not take any of the credit.
“This is a team effort, and the team put it together,” he said. “I’m just there to stop shots. It’s the team that’s the star.”
The scoring started early and occurred often throughout the first part of the game as the teams traded goals before freezing up in the 49th minute.
Tristan Booth of Bountiful initiated the scoring run when he crossed a ball that ricocheted off a Murray defender and into the net in the 19th minute. The Spartans responded immediately with a goal by Sean Speirs and then eight minutes later when Pierson sent a shot past a charging goalkeeper to grab the 2-1 lead.
Garrett Rydalch and Jake Haddock scored in the 32nd and 34th minutes to give Bountiful a 3-2 lead at the halftime break, and Chris Oregon of Murray assisted Clayton Powell in the 49th minute to lock the score again.
“We played them in preseason and it was down to the wire,” said Plank, whose team defeated the Spartans 2-1 back in March. “We knew coming into it they probably only improved over the course of the season, so we knew it was just going to be the kind of game that it was. Trading goals, whoever made the fewest mistakes or took advantage of their opportunities was going to win it.”
Murray, which won the championship a year ago and the Region 7 title this season, finishes with a record of 14-3-2.
Bountiful, the Region 6 champion, moves on to the title match to face a Lehi squad it has not played this season. After needing penalty kicks to advance in both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, Plank gave his team one rule for the matchup Thursday:
“No more shootouts. We’re done with shootouts.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.
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