SANDY — Heading into overtime against Ogden in the 3A semifinals Friday evening, Wasatch head coach Dawain Wheatley asked his players to finish the game quickly.
Did they ever.
Less than 20 seconds and only one possession into the extra stanza, Wasatch senior Ben Powell netted the golden goal and punched the Wasps’ ticket to the championship match.
Powell's goal, his second of the game, gave the Wasps a 2-1 victory on the turf at Jordan High School.
“The kids played wonderful,” said Wheatley, whose team remains undefeated heading into a state championship showdown with rival Park City on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. “That Ogden is just a fabulous team.”
Only four minutes into Friday's semifinal contest, a single lightning bolt sent the players to shelter. Forty-two minutes of delay and four more minutes of soccer later, Powell knocked in the game's first goal on an assist from Isaac Smedley.
“He just has a nose for the darn goal,” Wheatley said of Powell. “He’s physical. He gets up there. The goals that he’s scoring are against good competition. He’s just worked his butt off. There is not a player that works harder than Ben Powell.”
In the 16th minute, Tigers senior Ethan Vosburg evened the score.
“I think we controlled that first half,” Whealey continued. “(Ogden) got that goofy goal that bounced over (goalkeeper) Cody (Cowley’s) head, and then it was a dogfight.”
When neither team could grab the lead in the second half, Wheatley turned to his other star, injured senior Alex Espinoza, to make something happen.
“I told him, at 15 minutes, if it was still tied, he was going in,” Wheatley recalled. Espinoza stepped on the field and instantly grabbed attention.
“What happens when we put Alex in, he just touches the ball and they had to focus on him, which sprung a little bit of (energy),” said the coach. “Those last 10-15 minutes, we just pressured their backline.”
In spite of the pressure, the Wasps were unable to score — due in major part to the efforts of Ogden goalkeeper Auggie Garcia. The junior has led the state in shutouts this season with 12 and allowed just seven goals all season, including two on Friday.
After the Wasps drove to the goal in overtime and Powell ended the game, Wheatley quickly gathered his players to celebrate — and then he sent them home.
“We have a 14-hour turnaround,” he said. “I told them to get home, get something to eat and get to bed.”
When asked about his championship-game opponent — Region 10 foe Park City, which Wasatch has narrowly defeated twice this season — Wheatley said he is thrilled.
“If you’d have asked for a dream matchup in the state championship, this is it,” he said. “Two schools with whole communities that are tied to the school ... and these kids have played with each other and against each other for eight years. It’s just going to be a passionate game.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org