COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS Top-ranked Brighton was the more dangerous team for the majority of its 5A quarterfinal game with Fremont on Friday, but it meant nothing with the game headed to overtime.
Fremont knew that overall dominance was irrelevant, it only needed one chance to pull off the upset. That moment came in the 93rd minute on a breakaway, but Brighton keeper Patxi Shortsleeve was there to turn it away with a fantastic save.
The shootout seemed easy after that.
"He got confidence and momentum going into the shootout with that save," said Brighton coach Russ Boyer.
Shortsleeve made two saves in the shootout, including the game-winning save in the eighth round of penalty kicks as the Bengals prevailed in the shootout 7-6. It was a shootout filled with plenty of tension from the first round.
After both teams converted their first three kicks, the real drama began in round four as Fremont keeper KC John came up with a huge diving save against Brighton midfield playmaker Michael Nielsen. Not to be outdone, Shortsleeve smothered Fremont's next shot to keep the shootout tally level at 3-3.
That's where it stood until the eighth round. Brighton's Austin Nate calmly stepped up and buried his shot, and Shortsleeve followed it up with a save that punched the Bengals' ticket to next week's 5A semifinals. It will take on Weber at Woods Cross High School at 6 p.m.
Shortsleeve's performance was particularly impressive when you consider he broke his nose in a pick-up basketball Wednesday night.
"Coach was very understandable," said Shortsleeve. "He understands what it's like to be our age."
Despite the loss, visiting Fremont couldn't have asked for a better start capitalizing on a free kick just four minutes into the game to go up 1-0. Fremont's Curtis Hall whipped the free kick from about 22 yards out toward the far post, a ball Derek Lee ran onto perfectly to volley in the game's first goal.
"They scored the dead ball to their credit, but I thought we had the flow of play most of the game to be honest," said Boyer.
The Bengals were getting chance after chance after chance during the remainder of the first half, but each time John was there to corral the ball in his box.
Brighton was final able to break through in first half stoppage time on a fantastic hook-up between Nielsen and teammate Jordan Hicks. On a free kick in the middle of the field about 40 yards from goal, Nielsen chipped a perfectly-weighted ball toward heart of the box which Hicks elevated and headed home to level the score at 1-1.
"It was big for us mentally, and it gave us the confidence," said Boyer. "We feel we're in great condition and we're very deep, so we wanted to be very aggressive in the second half and that goal enabled us to do that with our mind set."Brighton had the better of the play for most of the second half, but there was about a 10-minute stretch midway through the half in which Fremont put together a couple of dangerous chances. Neither team could do anything with those chances setting the stage for the overtime and then shootout drama.
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