I told them to play our game and we’d be fine. That second half, I thought we did a very good job of holding possession and working the ball around. —Lehi boys soccer coach Jerry Preisendorf
WOODS CROSS — Lehi senior Caide Ramos could not look at the opposing goalkeeper. It would've made him too nervous. So instead, he focused on the ball. He took his shot. He watched it hit the crossbar and bounce in.
Ramos, the fifth and final Lehi player to attempt a penalty kick in the Pioneers’ shootout against No. 1 Brighton in the 5A semifinals Tuesday afternoon, vaulted his team to the championship match with that strike, which gave his team a 4-3 PK victory after the teams played to a 2-2 tie through two overtimes.
“That one was hard on me,” said Ramos, who scored two penalty kicks in the semifinal match. “I was just hoping (the Brighton goalkeeper) wouldn’t go that way.”
The Pioneers rallied from two early deficits to force extra time. Brighton got on the board in just the seventh minute with a goal from senior leader Matt Coffey and held the lead for seven more minutes before Lehi junior Gui Lemi tied the score.
After the midpoint, the Pioneers improved their play but Brighton maintained the lead until just eight minutes remained, when Ramos got his first attempt at a penalty kick.
“I told them to play our game and we’d be fine,” said Lehi coach Jerry Preisendorf. “That second half, I thought we did a very good job of holding possession and working the ball around.”
In the 72nd minute, sophomore Leo Fuchs and Brighton goalkeeper Kolton Savage collided in the box, leaving Fuchs with a massive bruise on his leg. Ramos sent the PK to the back of the net and evened the score at two goals apiece.
“He had the confidence to get up there and knock them in both times,” Preisendorf said of the senior. “Have to give him credit there. He did well. I was proud of him.”
Throughout both overtimes, neither team could gain a goal but each lost a player when a double-yellow card — coincidentally the second yellow for each player — was assessed in the 85th minute.
“That made me mad. I don’t like PKs. I told them I didn’t want to go to PKs,” Preisendorf said afterward with a sigh of relief. “After we got (Ramos’) goal we were just weird. We just started not playing our style. With both teams being down a man, it kind of makes things weird.”
During the shootout, Lehi goalkeeper Taylor Watkins blocked the second Brighton attempt and the Bengals’ missed the fourth attempt wide right. Brighton goalkeeper Braedon Hickey blocked the first Lehi PK, but the Pioneers scored their final four shots for the win.
Brighton, the Region 3 champions, finish the season 17-2-0, losing just one other time to arch-rival Alta.
Lehi is the Region 4 champion and currently stands at 12-5-1. Ramos said the friendships off the field have been the difference for the team this season.
“We have good team unity this year,” he said. “We really get along, and I think that’s what helped us get this far.”
The Pioneers will meet region foe Bingham, a team they have defeated twice, in the championship Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
“Beating a team three times, it’s not easy,” Preisendorf said. “Bingham’s a good team. It does prove that our region’s tough, really tough.”
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