WOODS CROSS — The Bountiful girls soccer team played its season finale in a dramatic setting: under the lights and against its greatest rival.
But the Braves (12-3-1, 12-2-0 in Region 6) were in a comfortable position on Tuesday evening, entering the match with the Region 6 championship and No. 1 seed already secured.
The Woods Cross Wildcats, on the other hand, were playing with their postseason hopes on the line.
"We had to win to be sure to make the playoffs," said Woods Cross coach David Newman. "There was more to this game than the usual cross-town rivalry."
After battling through what Newman called "one of our best games of the season," the Wildcats fell, 2-0, to Bountiful, which is returning a large chunk of its roster from its 4A state runner-up finish a year ago.
With the loss, Woods Cross dropped from a second-place tie to a fourth-place tie in the region standings.
"This had all the trappings of a Bountiful-Woods Cross rivalry match," said Bountiful coach Lou Plank. "Obviously, they had a lot more to play for than we did. The pressure was on them."
The game was a scoreless tie until the 53rd minute, when Miranda Tesch found the back of the net for her sixth goal of the season.
Cierra Martin added the second goal — a ball that hit the cross bar and then spun into the net — in the 68th minute.
"I'm really proud of our kids because when they found their tempo, they linked up really well," Plank said, "and just cut through Woods Cross' really tough defense and created a bunch of opportunities for us."
The two late goals put the Wildcats in a desperate situation and emotions heightened.
"Certainly at the end, it got pretty heated," said Plank. "I was worried the refs were going to lose control of the match in terms of keeping everybody safe. He was letting a lot go."
Both teams had players leave the game due to injuries. Plank is hoping both of his players who came off the field will be able to recover quickly and return to practice and state tournament play.
Newman agreed the game became physical, and added that the Braves earned their victory.
"Credit to Bountiful," he said. "They created their opportunities and took advantage. That is why they won region."
Newman also noted the solid play of senior goalkeeper Charity Cole and the Braves' defense, which earned their seventh shutout of the season.
"This was a good test piece for us for the first round of the state playoffs," said Plank. "(Our players) showed a lot of mental discipline, they didn't lose their nerve. They didn't freak out when things weren't going our ways in this match. They stayed calm and composed."
Prior to the game, Woods Cross (9-7-0, 9-5-0) was in a three-team tie for second place along with East and Clearfield. Both the Leopards and the Falcons won their games over Kearns and Cyprus, respectively, maintaining their lock at second-place. Meanwhile, Highland also won, defeating Judge Memorial, to move into a fourth-place tie with the Wildcats. Region 6, however, has only four spots in the 4A state tournament bracket.
"It means we have a coin toss," Newman said. "There is a week until the tournament starts; I wish we could have a play-off game. We split our regular season games with Highland and now we have to depend on the fate of a coin toss."