WOODS CROSS The Brighton Bengals did it.
In this millennium, no boys soccer team has paid more dues than Brighton.
Nobody has repeatedly come as close to winning the 5A boys soccer championship, but aside from a title in 2000, all of their subsequent title quests have ended in heartache.
However, it took just one fantastic swing of the boot by Bengal senior Adam Dahlberg to close Brighton's seven-year chapter of postseason misery and frustration.
A new chapter in Bengal soccer was written in the 5A title game on Thursday, and it's a championship-winning one.
The swashbuckling effort and intensity that has defined Brighton soccer was on display throughout the previous seven years, including during the three title-game defeats the Bengals suffered during that stretch, but the little things went against them.
On Thursday, though, they didn't, and after winning a penalty for a clear handball with just over nine minutes to go, Dahlberg helped give his teammates, coach and school a state championship.
Dahlberg's picture-perfect penalty kick in the 71st minute left Viewmont keeper Josh Nordfelt with no chance, and the Bengals emerged with a 1-0 win over the Vikes at Woods Cross High.
"I'm so proud of my kids, man," said coach Russ Boyer, who was an assistant when Brighton won its last title in 2000 and finally broke through as a head coach. "They did it. They did it."
More than anybody, Boyer and his seniors can sympathize with the way Viewmont now feels o they had been there before on many occasions.
"I just remember sophomore year, losing to Alta (in the title game) was one of the worst feelings ever," said Dahlberg. "I wanted it for those seniors so bad. ... But it feels so much better to get it my senior year for the rest of the seniors and especially for coach (Boyer). He's worked so
hard, all the coaches have worked so hard, and it feels great to get him his first one."
Both Brighton and Viewmont had produced an extremely gritty and tight soccer game nothing less than you'd expect from a championship game when Thursday's decisive moment arrived near the end of regulation.
After winning a throw deep on the left side, Brighton captain Mike Nielsen strode forward to take it. After noticing that Nordfelt had been quickly coming off his line, Nielsen tried to place it in a spot that would make the Viewmont keeper do the same thing.
That's exactly what happened, and when Brighton forward Jordan Hicks got his head on the ball, it was cleared off the line by a Viewmont player's hand.
The referee awarded a penalty, and Dahlberg strode forward to take it.
Before the 5A tournament began, Boyer told Dahlberg he would be Brighton's penalty-taker should they win one, and accordingly, he had all the confidence in the world.
With the weight of his team and its seven-year history hanging on his shoulders, Dahlberg didn't flinch, and he drilled the ball low inside the left corner.
"I knew it was good as soon as it left my foot," said Dahlberg.
From there, it was all about defending.
Though the Vikes played a man down, they threw everything they had at Brighton over the final nine minutes, and it took concentration and composure for the Bengals to keep getting the ball away.
That's precisely what they did, and there was pandemonium for Brighton when the final whistle blew.
"Clear after clear we practice that in practice," said Nielsen. "One clear is gonna win you a state championship, and we did it."
Nobody was more important in that regard than Deseret News 5A All-Tournament team MVP Spencer Burnside who didn't play soccer last year. Brighton's senior defender had turne
d in a stellar performance up to that point, and he got even better over the game's final few minutes.
"He's been unsung all year back there, but he's made play after play after play," said Boyer. "... He took charge today. People saw it today, but he's been that way all year."
Nielsen and Dahlberg echoed those sentiments.
"Today he definitely showed his stuff out there," said Nielsen. "He saved us time after time, and to me, he's one of the best players on our team. ... I'm not sure we could've done it without him."
Though his team came up short, Viewmont coach Dave Wigham praised his players and was proud of what they accomplished in 2008."All I ask for is effort, and that's what I got today," he said.
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