COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — If you look at it from a logical perspective, there are few reasons which can justify Brighton's sudden emergence as one of the better defensive teams in 5A.

The Bengals began the season by breaking in a host of new starters along their backline and at goalkeeper. On paper, that's not exactly a formula conducive to success.

But with five shutouts and counting to its credit, Brighton is quickly proving that reloading isn't going to be as difficult for them as some people may have thought.

"Everyone kind of underestimated us because we lost all those seniors," senior forward Jessica Ringwood said. "But I think we're going to be a force to be reckoned with because we've really stepped it up."

The Bengal defense experienced a not-so-stellar debut in its home opener against Northridge, yielding goals on free kicks and other set pieces in an 8-3 victory.

Instead of being a trend, however, it has merely been an anomaly. Brighton's confidence and defensive communication have improved with each ensuing shutout.

First-year coach Tennille Vance is especially pleased with the play of sweeper Harper Fleming. The junior shifted to the position after playing either stopper or outside midfield in seasons past, but has taken to sweeper like she has played there all along.

"She has done an excellent job of coming in and stepping in that role and communicating with her team, and pushing them out when they need to and stepping to the ball," Vance said.

Amanda Oswald, another junior, has also excelled at goalkeeper. Oswald has earned 4 1/2 shutouts in helping the Bengals to a 6-0 start.

Strong defenses are the rule, not the exception, in the rest of the region too. Alta has a capable unit led by senior standouts Natalie Norris and Morgan Bridge.

Junior goalkeeper Tashia Long has made her mark too. Long responded well after getting thrown into the fire in last year's state title run when she filled in for injured teammate Shanna Ipson.

She hasn't missed a beat early in the season.

"She's stepped up," Alta coach Lee Mitchell said. "She's confident. She's controlling things back there."

As good as the defenses are, Region 2 might also feature some of the most prolific offenses in the state. Ringwood leads 5A in scoring with nine goals. Alta's frontline tandem of Kealia Ohai and Ashley Jones are tied for third with seven apiece — along with Taylorsville's Alisha Riggs and Jordan's Libby Lundquist.

All six teams in the region rank among the top ten in offense and the Hawks lead the way with an average of six goals per game.


E-mail: jcoon@desnews.com