Our defense, we've got to give it back to our defense. Hunter McFall, Tanner Dunkley, Jake Cole and Brandon De Leon — they just held it together. A big shutout to our 'keeper, Parker Seegmiller. It's amazing. —Riverton senior forward Nick Tanner
SANDY — As the saying goes, a good offense wins games but a good defense wins championships.
The Riverton boys soccer team proved that sentiment to be true Thursday evening, using its fifth consecutive shutout to defeat Fremont 1-0 in the 5A title match at Rio Tinto Stadium, earning the first championship in program history.
"It's the best (defense) I've ever coached," Riverton coach Paul Moizer said, noting that not only did his team not give up a goal during its playoff run, but it only allowed three scores in its last 12 matches.
"Our defense, we've got to give it back to our defense," said senior forward Nick Tanner. "Hunter McFall, Tanner Dunkley, Jake Cole and Brandon De Leon — they just held it together. A big shutout to our 'keeper, Parker Seegmiller. It's amazing."
With the final clean sheet, Seegmiller and his back line recorded 12 shutouts for the season, a statistic that is found at the top of both the 5A and the statewide leaderboards.
"This defense just bonded together," Moizer said. "With the four in front and Seegmiller in the back, they're just really, really solid."
The Silverwolves scored an early goal to take the lead in the championship match but leaned heavily on that back line the rest of the way as neither team could find the net again.
"I really didn't feel that comfortable," Moizer said of the one-goal lead. "I was hoping — and I was hoping for a second one."
It was Tanner who put the Silverwolves on the board, scoring inadvertently in just the seventh minute of the contest.
"I was just in the right spot," he said of the scoring sequence. "The ball bounced to me and I was actually trying to get out of the way. Richard Anderson made a nice flick. I just got on the end of it and it just went in."
The unexpected sequence proved to be a big advantage for Tanner.
"I was actually shocked," to find an open net, he said. "I think I caught the 'keeper flat-footed. He was trying to go where the ball was. I just got in his way."
Much of the remainder of the match was played in front of Seegmiller and the Riverton defense. In the final 10 seconds, Fremont controlled the ball a final time and charged toward the Silverwolves' net.
"I'm thinking, 'Oh crap, we're going to overtime,'" Tanner said, but the defense deflected the opportunity and the game was over.
"They threw everything they had at us, and we were hanging on for dear life — and they held," Moizer said.
The Fremont Silver Wolves, who were the second-place team from a deep Region 1, reached the title game by defeating Pleasant Grove in the first round, Taylorsville in overtime in the quarterfinals, and region rival Layton in the semis.
Riverton made its way to the title match after fighting to the top of Region 4 and then beating Davis, Alta and top-ranked Viewmont all by the score of 2-0. In addition to allowing just three goals since April 1, the Silverwolves have allowed just 11 all season.
"Parker is solid. He works hard and he's a great shot-blocker," Moizer said of his defensive anchor. "This season he's really come on in the air, taking out crosses and things like that. All through the playoffs, he's been really good at that."
Seegmiller, however, refuses to take the credit.
"My center backs are unbelievably good and everything is because of them," he said. "I'm just back there. I let them do what they do."
Both Moizer and Seegmiller said the team was playing for someone on the sideline.
"We had a kid red-carded in the last game, Christian Evans, and nobody wanted anything more than to win this game for Christian," the coach said. "That's all they're talking about. He was the guy that held up the trophy first. They're just a great group and they're always thinking of each other."
The goalkeeper added that the win was for their coach.
"That's his first one in 26 years (of coaching)," Seegmiller said. "So that's why we did it. That's why it feels good."
And while it feels good to win the title and to have earned the most shutouts, the Silverwolves never looked that far down the road.
"Our goal was to win a game, and then we won four," Seegmiller said. "It's not the shutouts that matter. It's the points, it's the goals, it's winning."
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.