SPANISH FORK — The American Leadership Academy Eagles are forging new territory, heading to the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever with a 3-2 victory over the Wendover Wildcats.
When the final whistle ended the nail-biting contest, it seemed as though the Eagles had won a state championship.
"This is the first time we've ever won a playoff game," junior striker Cobi Warren said of the excitement. "It's ALA soccer history for us here."
Warren, the team's second leading scorer, went home a hero, as it was his game-clinching goal that sent the Wildcats packing. The tenacious forward broke away on the left side with just over a minute to play, drawing the goalie out of the net before putting his final touch on the ball.
Though Wendover goalkeeper Alex Zamora got in front of it, the ball deflected off his hands and bounced into the net to punch the Eagles ticket.
"It felt amazing to get that final goal to get us the win," Warren said. "It was awesome."
The goal was Warren's second of the afternoon, as it was he who scored in the first half for the early 1-0 advantage. Levi Lopez sent in a perfectly placed free kick midway through the half, connecting with Warren who finished with a beautiful header.
A few minutes later, Warren assisted another but it was called back. The remainder of the half was marked by a Wendover rally and an ALA let down.
Wendover's Moises Mayo was the first to get on the scoreboard for the Wildcats, hesitating before booting in the equalizer from just outside the 18-yard box. Joseph Ruiz headed in the next Wendover goal to give them the 2-1 lead at the half.
"I told them it was now or never," head coach Steve Solen said of the momentary let down. "If you want to remember this day, you've got to give me 100-percent the rest of the game. You can't look back and say, I did not give 100-percent."
The Eagles paid heed to Solen's warning, picking up the intensity when things got tight.
Zach Hogenson's persistant efforts in the 65th minute tied the game, 2-2.
The Eagles sent sailing a corner kick from the right side and Wendover goalkeeper punched it out.
The ball didn't get far before Hogenson sent it burning back into the net for the rebound goal. Fifteen minutes later, Warren sealed the deal.
The Wildcats put up a valiant effort and had several near misses, including one from Valentine DeSantiago that pinged off the right post. On another occasion, around the 67th minute, Mayo outraced his opponent and pulled goalkeeper Adam Davis out of the net. Davis made an exceptional, leaping save.
The Eagles will go on to play ____ in the second round on Saturday.