PROVO After starting out 0-4 in boys soccer, there weren't many people in Morgan, including some of the team's players, who believed the Morgan Trojans would be a legit championship contender in 2008.
Though all four losses came against really good teams, there was an inevitable feeling that it would take time for the Trojans to get up to speed under first-year coach Fritz Backman.
Yet just two months later, here they are one win away from hoisting the 3A state championship trophy.
Following a 0-0 draw through 100 minutes against Judge Memorial in Friday's 3A semifinals, Morgan keeper John Haws made two saves during the ensuing shootout as the Trojans emerged with a 3-2 shootout win.
"State championship honestly, I didn't think we'd get here," said junior forward Kyle Walker, who nailed what proved to be the match-clinching shot in the fourth round of spot kicks. "Right now, I've got the butterflies, I've got chills."
No. 5 Morgan will meet third-ranked Park City for the 3A championship today at Timpview High, beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Shootouts inevitably produce heroes and villains, and on this occasion the hero for Morgan was Haws.
The senior shot-stopper dove well to save Judge's second and third attempts, and after Walker scored to put Morgan up 3-2 at the end of the fourth round, Haws watched Judge's subsequent must-make penalty kick sail wide.
Haws' shootout heroics capped his third shutout in as many playoff games.
"The last three games, John's been playing amazing," said Walker.
The same could be said of Judge keeper Luke Bettin and his defenders, who also didn't concede a goal in three playoff games.
The cold reality of shootouts, however, dictates that Judge and Bettin are out, while Haws and Morgan march on.
The drama of a shootout came after what had been a wild match throughout regulation and overtime.
Judge, with Charlie Brennan and Jake Troy at the controls, had the majority of play in the first half; Morgan, with Walker and Co. streaming forward, had the better of the play in the second half, and the teams traded spells of possession in overtime.
With a strong wind behind them, the Trojans had more play in the first OT, while Judge poured pressure on the Trojans in the second OT.
Backman knew the Trojans would be under pressure at that point, and he was extremely relieved when the clock reached 0:00.
"Thank the heavens, we survived," said Backman, who praised Judge's players for being very classy to him despite the bitter defeat.
And now Morgan moves on to the state final.
After starting out 0-4, Backman guaranteed Morgan AD Renn Hoopes he would turn things around, and he's made good on that promise."I guaranteed him we would win our next three games and four of our next five, and now we've won 11 of our last 12 games., our only loss being to (top-ranked) Logan," said Backman. "We came together as a team, one unit, and we're in the championship now."