COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS Alta forward Sean Patterson estimated he had practiced the maneuver only about a "million times" with strike partner Richard Harrison: One player darts with the ball down the flank and whips a cross toward the goalmouth, and the player without the ball dashes to get on the end of it.
But there was just one little difference between what Patterson and Harrison typically practice and what they did in the 75th minute of Alta's rivalry showdown at No. 3 Brighton on Wednesday afternoon there were hundreds of people waiting to see whether they were successful.
On this occasion, Harrison and Patterson shined. Harrison's fantastic cross was swept home by Patterson with five minutes to go, and the fourth-ranked Hawks survived some late pressure en route to a pulsating 1-0 win.
Patterson's late goal and the resulting scramble as Brighton attempted to equalized capped yet another must-see Brighton-Alta game not that you'd expect anything less from the rivalry that always seems to yield fabulous entertainment.
"It was a typical Brighton-Alta game," said Alta coach Lee Mitchell, whose side picked up three gigantic points to jump from fifth place to third in Region 2. "You've got to sit and enjoy them."
Following a first half in which play was fairly even, Brighton put Alta's backline under pressure for large segments of the second half.
However, the Bengals failed to convert any of their chances, including a point-blank miss by star central midfielder Mike Nielsen in the 72nd minute.
Just three minutes later, Harrison and Patterson applied the killer blow.
"It doesn't always work out," Patterson said of the move that led to his goal, "but it really was just picture perfect."
Well, as Patterson quickly added, almost.
Brighton goalkeeper Patxi Shortsleeve did extremely well to get his hands on Patterson's shot, but it had just enough momentum to cross the line before a Brighton defender tried to scurry it away.
The goal wasn't given until the assistant referee, one of the more competent referees in the state, ruled that the ball had crossed the line, but there weren't huge complaints from Brighton players about the decision.
"It was way over (the line)," said Patterson.
Brighton star defender Tim Herzog missed the contest through injury, and on the other side, the Hawks dealt with several injuries of their own. Accordingly, reserve fullback Stephen Richards saw big minutes for Alta, as did youngsters Kris Evans (right wing) and Andrew Hawks (forward). And freshman Tally Wilsher got some time in central midfield.
"That's a whole 'nother world when you get out there in this kind of game, so I was real pleased with what our younger kids did when they came in and played," said Mitchell.
Those timely contributions helped Alta beat Brighton for the third time since 2001, and it also helped the Hawks stay on course to make sure they don't miss the playoffs for the first time in their history.
Through six games in Region 2, Brighton and Jordan are tied for first place with 12 points, Alta is in third with nine points, Taylorsville and Skyline are tied for fourth with seven points and Hillcrest is in sixth with five points. Only three of six Region 2 teams qualify for the postseason.
However, as Patterson quickly pointed out, even if all those playoff implications weren't on the line, beating Brighton would still feel the same."No matter what, no matter how good or bad we are us and Brighton it's always just a treat to beat Brighton, especially on their home field," he said.
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