SANDY The Alta Hawks had had enough.
Alta's boys soccer team showed during the preseason that it had the credentials to be an outstanding side, only to drop its first two Region 2 games.
Considering the league only gets three playoff spots for its six teams, starting out 0-2 was something the third-ranked Hawks could ill afford to do, albeit both defeats came against great teams top-ranked Brighton and up-and-coming Skyline.
Alta faced yet another great team on Friday, but this time, there was a different outcome.
Junior Jed Deleeuw nodded home the game-winner in the 57th minute, and the Hawks played composed soccer from start to finish en route to a 2-1 win over crosstown rival Jordan, the defending 5A champs.
"Phew," said Alta coach Lee Mitchell, whose boys and girls teams have never missed the playoffs since soccer first became sanctioned in 1983. "This was our most consistent game (of the season), against a very excellent team."
Mitchell didn't frame Friday's contest as a must-win game beforehand, because, as he pointed out, "What happens if you lose?"
However, it was pretty evident that the Hawks knew this one meant much more than a run-of-the-mill regular-season contest.
"We realized this was the turning point of the season," said central midfielder Justin Staples, whose free kick led to the game-winning goal. "If we lose this, things aren't going to be good. So we stepped it up real big this game, and we got the victory, a much-needed victory."
Friday's result left No. 4 Jordan and Alta, as well as Taylorsville, tied for third in the early Region 2 table with three points apiece. All three teams trail Brighton by six points and Skyline by four points.
With the game tied at 1-1 midway through the second half, Alta won a free kick down the left channel, which Staples approached and whipped toward the far post.
His attempt was slightly overhit, but junior forward Tim Fitt did extremely well to get on the end of it. Fitt rose high and nodded the ball square toward the middle, where Deleeuw headed well into the net.
"That was a big play right there," said Staples.
Earlier, right midfielder Cory Tanner scored to put Alta ahead 1-0 in the 28th minute, before Marcus Christensen equalized for Jordan eight minutes later.
Over the final 20 minutes, Alta continued to do the things it had done up to that point pressure Jordan, maintain its shape and attack when opportunities presented themselves. The Hawks held Jordan to just a pair of late shots and could have scored more goals themselves, had it not been for the stellar play of Jordan keeper Jake Rogers.
And for the most part, Alta's backline, which has been shuffled around, stayed composed and did what it needed to.
Alta standout defender Nate Middleton, who played his first game of the season at sweeper, shined, and freshman stopper Derek Boggs, charged with the unenviable task of marking reigning 5A MVP Jake Hustedt, also played extremely well.
Mitchell rarely lets freshmen see the field, but Boggs has forced his way into the lineup.
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