TAYLORSVILLE — Since cracking Viewmont’s starting line-up at center back a few weeks ago, Jared Whitworth has been a rock defensively. Turns out, he’s a pretty lethal weapon on set pieces, too.
The junior scored his first varsity goal on a header in the 75th minute Tuesday, which proved to be the game winner as Viewmont eked out the 2-0 region victory over Taylorsville in fierce windy conditions Tuesday.
“It’s a big deal. To win a region championship you have to win almost every game, so it’s really big to come and win on the road,” said Whitworth, whose team improved to 2-0 in Region 2 with the win.
Fellow junior Matt Hansen eventually tacked on an insurance goal in stoppage time, but it was Whitworth’s goal that finally helped Viewmont breathe a sigh of relief after numerous missed opportunities throughout the first 75 minutes.
Both goals came with the Vikings attacking into the stiff wind, but coach Dave Wigham said it was a blessing in disguise after being held scoreless despite the wind advantage in the first half.
“I told the kids at halftime we actually play better going into the wind. As you saw in the first half, we did way too many over the top balls and the ball just rolled that we couldn’t get to,” said Wigham.
With the stiff wind in their faces, Wigham said his players were forced to stick to Viewmont’s “KISS” philosophy of passing, which is “keep it simple stupid.”
Taylorsville keeper Kellar Sirstins came up with a couple big saves in both halves, most notably his shoulder save on a point-blank shot by Mike Johnson in the 45th minute. He was helpless to save Whitworth’s goal in the 75th minute, though.
The set piece goal was surprisingly simple.
On a free kick about 35 yards from goal, Taylorsville opted not to mark Landon Brown as he drifted toward the sideline to provide width. Viewmont’s coaches quickly instructed Brown to tuck in closer to the side of the four-man wall, yet still nobody slid over to mark him. By the time Zach Beckman took the free kick, Brown had drifted deep enough to slip in behind the wall unmarked to receive Beckman’s pass near the right of the edge of the penalty area.
He tracked it down just before it rolled past the endline, hammering a cross into the danger area, where Whitworth was waiting to head it home for the 1-0 lead.
It was only fitting that Whitworth was there, because he has altered Viewmont’s attitude.
He started his first game against Alta back on March 19, and even though the Vikings lost that match, Wigham knew immediately that Whitworth needed to be a permanent fixture in his defense.
“He dominated, and I said to myself, ‘we can’t keep him on the field,' so we had to make adjustments to keep him on the pitch,” said Wigham.
Viewmont has won both region games since the switch, and Wigham has seen a surge in confidence as a result.
“They got a little down during preseason, we played some tough teams. I knew it was going to be tough going at first until we found our legs, and it really wasn’t until after Alta when the Jared thing occurred, we just started taking off,” said Wigham.