RIVERTON For four years, there has been just one guy between the posts of Riverton High's goalmouth.
Senior Zach Dunn assumed the starting position of Riverton goalkeeper as a bright-eyed freshman, and as you might expect, he endured some rough on-the-job training.
But those early experiences helped make Dunn what he is today a solid, steady and dependable goalkeeper and the Silverwolves will rely on his experience throughout the 2008 season.
"I came in right behind Adam Richardson, who went to Sacramento on a big scholarship, so I had some pretty big shoes to fill," said Dunn. "My freshman and sophomore year, I feel like I could've been better, but I was inexperienced, kind of thrown into the mixer.
"But (the experience) was good. I learned a lot I've had to learn a lot."
One such learning moment came in the final game of his freshman season of 2005.
Riverton had notched a first-round playoff win 12 months earlier when the Silverwolves went to overtime with Skyline in the first round of the 5A postseason. However, Riverton's quest to win its second postseason game ever came to a screeching halt when a goal slipped past Dunn in OT.
It could've been a crushing blow to anybody, but the now seasoned veteran used it to make himself better.
"I felt like I kind of let down my seniors," he said, "so I guess that's kind of pushed me more I don't wanna let down my seniors this year."
Don't expect that to happen. If anything, suggested veteran coach Paul Moizer, expect Dunn to be the one that makes a season-saving save for the 'Wolves.
"I've done this a lot of years and I've had a lot of all-state goalies, and Zach's every bit as good as any of them I've ever had," said Moizer. "He's really quick, and the saves you don't expect him to make those are the ones he seems to come up with.
"A goalie can keep you in a game sometimes, and we've got that edge sometimes and that helps because he gives confidence to everybody on the field."
Between now and the end of the season, Dunn will be doing all he can to help his Silverwolves, but once his prep career ends, he'll start to turn his attention to an LDS mission. Dunn turns 19 in November and said he plans to forgo collegiate playing offers from Westminster and some other small schools in order to go on a mission.
"Right now," he said, "the plan is to go on a mission, come back, see what happens."Note: For a report on each Region 3 team, visit deseretnews.com.
Region 3 boys soccer predictions
(Coaches' predicted order of finish)
1. RIVERTON: The Silverwolves won Region 3 two years, finished second a year ago and have established themselves as an elite program on the west side. In 2008, there's no question that Riverton will be anchored by talented senior forwards Ryan Smith and Nate Swank. The pair has been playing together for quite some time, and regardless of where they're on the field, expect them to lead the way. Senior goalkeeper Zach Dunn is also solid, and the 'Wolves will look to build their team around those three. They should contend for the region championship and could be a player in the postseason. 2007 record: 12-6. Playoffs: Lost in quarterfinals.
2. HUNTER: The first month of 2008 has been vastly different than the opening month of 2007 for the defending Region 3 champs. A season ago, the Wolverines won eight of their first nine games but opened 2008 with a 1-3 record. Clearly, it's taken some time to replace prolific goal-scorer Dennis Sellis. However, Hunter has shown signs of turning the corner, which could be a scary sign for the rest of the league. Franchelli Albornoz can score goals and set them up, and fellow returners Cody Brinkerhoff and goalkeeper Brandon Hoyt will be counted on for big contributions. 2007 record: 12-2-3. Playoffs: Lost in quarterfinals.
3. BINGHAM: Note to the rest of 5A: You don't want to have to play Bingham in the playoffs. Young and inexperienced, the Miners have been up-and-down during the first month of the season, but don't be surprised if they're formidable by the end of league play. Coach Scott Maxfield has enlisted the help of assistant John Carper, who's regarded as one of the top coaches in the state. Carper's previous job was as the head coach at Jordan High, whom he led to a state championship and to two title-game appearances in three years. Before he got hurt, sweeper Justin Sorensen, a BYU football signee, had been leading the backline. Going the other way, Travis Nguyen was the only Miner player with more than one goal in the first seven games. 2007 record: 10-6-2. Playoffs: Lost in first round.
4. KEARNS: Had the UHSAA not taken away Region 3's fourth playoff spot in 2007, the Cougars would've been a 5A playoff participant. Instead, they lost a play-in game to Bingham. Daniel Alencar has been a star so far, scoring four times and helping to lead the way for Kearns. Behind him, Jake Bell and Fatu Moala are both capable playmakers. 2007 record: 7-7-2. Playoffs: Did not qualify.
5. COPPER HILLS: To date, the Grizzlies have been one of the state's major surprises. Coach Michael Shaughnessy lined up a brutal preseason schedule, composed of contests against Lone Peak, Mountain View, Alta, Jordan and Taylorsville. Copper Hills emerged with an impressive 2-2-1 record. The two defeats came against defending 5A champ Jordan and perennial power Alta, and the Grizzlies gave both teams all they could handle. Accordingly, expect Copper Hills to have the ability to contend for a Region 3 championship. Through six games, Kaden Anselmo has scored twice. 2007 record: 8-7-1. Playoffs: Did not qualify.
6. WEST JORDAN: Two years ago, the Jags had a very good season but struggled mightily in 2007 and went winless. West Jordan has also had its own share of struggles this season, but the Jags netted a 1-0 preseason win over Spanish Fork and a 0-0 draw with Juan Diego. Alan Bojorquez scored in the 1-0 win over Spanish Fork, and 'keeper Will Taylor had the shutout in goal. 2007 record: 0-14. Playoffs: Did not qualify.