WOODS CROSS The Brighton boys soccer team is a game away from a state championship once again. After a 2-1 win over Weber on Tuesday, the Bengals are back in the 5A title game for the fourth time in seven years.
A goal either side of halftime was enough for Brighton to hang on and advance. The Bengals have had to settle for second place in each of its last three trips, however, and were anxious to take care of business in the semifinals and get another chance in the championship game.
It wasn't a walk in the park against Weber. The Bengals took control with a two-goal lead, but had to survive a frantic comeback and a blustering wind in their faces for most of the second half.
"We held on," said Brighton coach Russ Boyer. "We battled through everything we had to and we held on. I as very pleased with our mental toughness at the end of the game."
Just when it looked like Brighton was ready to put things in cruise control and coast to the win, momentum and the weather took a turn against them and the Bengals were soon back on their heels.
In the final 20 minutes, what had been a moderate breeze for most the game turned into heavy gusts that were strong enough to blow Brighton's goal a few feet off the end line.
Weber scored on a free kick by Taylor Bowlen with eight minutes remaining to pull within a goal, and then pinned the Bengals down in their own defending third until the final whistle. There were a couple of close calls, but Brighton's defense rose to the challenge and kept the equalizing goal out.
"You have heart and you get the clears out," said Boyer. "That's it. You just have to be mentally tough."
After almost 40 scoreless minutes, Brighton went ahead seconds before halftime when Mike Nielsen knocked a cross past the goalkeeper at the near post. The Bengals had struggled finding their rhythm up to that point, but seemed to kick into gear and take control.
Four minutes into the second half the lead was doubled when Taylor Peay dribbled all the way down the right wing into shooting range and beat the goalkeeper.
Weber didn't go away without a fight. Before Bowlen's goal the Warriors hit the cross bar and forced a few tough saves out of Brighton 'keeper Patxi Shortsleeve, but it wasn't enough.
"They're a great team," said Boyer. "We played our game. We matched ours against theirs and that was our game plan."
The Bengals will face Viewmont at 6:30 p.m. in Thursday's championship game.
We battled through everything we had to and we held on. I as very pleased with our mental toughness at the end of the game.