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Matt Gade, Deseret News
Herriman's Ambree Bennett (37) and Riverton's Kirsten Spencer fight for the ball during a game on Tuesday, Sept. 10 in Herriman.

HERRIMAN — Twelve years ago Tuesday, on Sept. 11, 2001, most of the seniors on the current Herriman girls soccer team were just entering kindergarten.

The events that happened that day, however, led to their current assistant coach, Staff Sgt. Daron Hill, serving the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

When the Mustangs were scheduled to play on that date last season, Hill and head coach Bill DeBruyn decided to use the game as a moment to teach their players about events they may not have been old enough to remember.

Together with their players, the Mustangs decided to host a tribute game to honor and thank military personnel, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other men and women who serve their communities.

On Tuesday, in a home match against neighbor Riverton that Riverton ultimately won 5-1, the Mustangs hosted the second installment of the event.

"We want to do this as an annual thing," DeBruyn said. "It's even gotten bigger this year than it was last year, and so hopefully we can grow it every year."

The Mustangs invited the Riverton players to join them in escorting onto the field a family member or friend they wanted to honor. Included in the event were the presentation of the colors by the Utah National Guard, the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and a moment of silence for those who have been killed in action.

The Silverwolves were honored to be included in the tribute.

"(DeBruyn) said, 'We do this event. We'd like you to be a part of it,'" said Riverton head coach Paul Moizer. "At that point, it's not about the team, it's about honoring the servicemen. We were happy to do it, and I thought it turned out really nice."

"It definitely helps build the team unity and helps with community-building, getting people realizing that it's more than just a soccer game," DeBruyn said. "It's about real life."

Among those honored was Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson, who was shot and killed while on duty Sept. 1.

"We also honored some of the (individuals) who had been killed in action posthumously, too, so that was a nice thing to do," DeBruyn said. "We want to make sure that we remember all the people who are in service for us, not just overseas but here in our own home state."

During the singing of the national anthem, surrounding noises disappeared, causing DeBruyn to look across the field to the practicing football team. All of coach Dustin Pearce's football players had frozen, removed their helmets, and turned their attention to the flags on the soccer field, joining in the tribute.

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"I looked over there (to the football team) and that was awesome," DeBruyn said. "I just congratulate them for their pride, too."

The National Guard then presented the game ball and the match got started. Riverton (6-2, 3-1 Region 4) forward Mallory Bostic scored on the opening possession and then again in the 23rd minute; Hailey Skolmoski scored in the final moments of the first half and then again midway through the second half; and Kirsten Spencer added the final Riverton goal in the 63rd minute.

Herriman (4-4, 1-3 Region 4) freshman Kaylee Holt scored for the Mustangs with 15 minutes remaining.

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.