COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Since 2001, no 5A boys soccer team has been more consistent than Brighton.

During that stretch, the Bengals have won seven of eight region championships, have advanced to the 5A semifinals in seven of eight years and, including tonight's championship-game appearance against Viewmont, have played for the state title on four occasions.

The year 2001 coincides with coach Russ Boyer's first season as the head coach at Brighton High. While he won a state title as a Bengal player and won two as an assistant coach before taking over for his mentor, Tom Cushing, success as a head coach in a state-championship game has agonizingly eluded him and his players up to this point.

It's not that Boyer's teams have stumbled in the three previous state finals — the Bengals played very well in all three and endured quite a bit of heartbreak — it's simply that all of the success they've enjoyed hasn't yet translated into a state championship.

And Boyer is OK with that.

"Yeah, we've been there," he said when reminded of their three previous unsuccessful championship-game appearances. "And we like the fact that we're competitive and that we are in it.

"We feel we've still been successful those years, and for whatever reason (haven't won it). It seems to me a lot of things have to happen — everything has to line up — for a team to win a state championship. ... A lot of that's within a team's control, and we feel like we've done our best with those things."

Top-ranked Brighton will face No. 4 Viewmont for the 5A title at 6:30 p.m. tonight, while Bountiful and Mountain View will meet for the 4A title at 4 p.m. Both games will be played at Woods Cross High.

It doesn't take Columbo to figure out that Boyer badly wants to see his players break through tonight against Viewmont. But even if the top-ranked Bengals don't, he says he'll walk away with no regrets if his players put forth the same effort that has defined their previous tournament runs.

"That's what we're lookin' for (tonight) is our best effort, and whatever happens happens," said Boyer. "But if we go out there and put our best game on the field, we're gonna be considered in our minds successful. ... We measure ourselves against ourselves. If we put our best effort out there, then we know we've done all we can do. And that's what's fun."

'Fun' promises to be the buzz word tonight, as long as forecasted winds don't ruin the festivities. Both championship games — Brighton's showdown with Viewmont in 5A and defending champ Bountiful's showdown with Mountain View in 4A — have the potential to be fantastic.

Brighton senior captains Mike Nielsen and Travis Barton played against Alta in the 2006 5A state championship and will return to the title game tonight. The way Nielsen see things, the difference could be a matter of inches.

"It comes down mostly to what team wants it the most, what team's gonna put forth every possible effort they have to gain that inch that they need," said Nielsen. "This is about heart and who wants it, and I personally think that we, Brighton, have that and have the inches over Viewmont."

Boys soccer playoffs

At Woods Cross High

Class 5A championship

Brighton vs. Viewmont, 6:30 p.m.

Class 4A championship

Mountain View vs. Bountiful, 4 p.m.


E-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com