Before they met on the field in the opening round of the 4A playoffs, East's boys soccer team knew just how dangerous third-ranked Timpview could be.
The Leopards knew that Timpview had been the highest-scoring team in the classification, they knew that sophomore sensation Karson Payton had been the leading scorer in the classification, and they knew it would take a composed performance on defense to somehow keep the T-Birds quiet.
And at the other end, East High scored twice within the space of 10 minutes during the first half to lead 2-0. After Timpview had pulled a goal back later in that half, Dane Andersen scored a killer third goal for East in the 53rd minute as the Leopards emerged with a 3-1 first-round win on Wednesday.
"We stayed really calm and composed the whole game because we knew they were a really good team," said junior defender Matt Rider, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Wednesday with the first-round win.
"They're the top-scoring team in 4A, so we had to play our best defensive game. We had to be as calm as we could, but still play our game and be aggressive. We handled it pretty well."
East will travel to second-ranked Bonneville in the 4A quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Friday.
The Leopards have now won their last four first-round playoff games, and the key moment in their latest one arrived early in the second half.
Leading 2-1 through an own goal and a strike by Jason Tanner, East coach Rudy Schenk challenged his players at halftime to start the second half like they had started the first half with lots intensity and pressure.
East displayed both traits from the opening whistle of the second half, and after creating several chances, Andersen was on hand toward the back post to stab home Tim Berggren's corner kick.
"The last thing we said before going (into the second half) was, 'The next goal that's scored wins this game if it's us or them,"' said Schenk. "I really believed that."
As it played out, he was exactly right.
East played some pretty good soccer after that before relying on its team defense down the stretch to get the result. East's midfield, anchored by senior star Stayner Langeland, helped keep the pressure on Timpview and off the backline, and when the T-Birds started pouring guys forward late, East's defenders did their jobs.
Rider, Daniel Tomas and Berggren all shined along the backline, and Hector Cisneros did well while rotating in and out with injured starter Brett Newman.
Payton, one of the most talented youngsters in the state, helped create Timpview's lone goal, which was finished by Emmanuel Quiroga, but the Leopards otherwise generally kept him quiet.
In Schenk's mind, there wasn't any question about how important that was.
"It was a must-do," he said. "The kid's a hell of a player and he's only a sophomore. Geez, I hope we never see him again because he's good."
Schenk and Co. were full of praise for Timpview afterward, but it wasn't long before the focus shifted to Friday's quarterfinal showdown at No. 2 Bonneville."Timpview is good," said Rider, "but we're gonna have to step it up a few notches to compete with (Bonneville)."
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