If I was to pick a favorite I think it’s Judge. —Emery head coach Troy Winter
After months of training, preseason tournaments and region contests, the 3A boys soccer state tournament is here, beginning Thursday afternoon.
Judge Memorial will battle Providence Hall, and Emery, Union. Delta is scheduled to face South Sevier, while Morgan takes on Grand County. Manti, North Sanpete, American Leadership Academy and Carbon all host first-round matchups as well.
In total, eight games will be played Thursday, with the winners advancing to Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Who the victors will be, as well as who the favorite is to claim the state title is difficult to say, in large part because no one knows each other.
“I have never seen the teams outside of our region,” Judge Memorial head coach Kelly Terrill said.
“The numbers can probably give us the favorites, but it is difficult to say because we don’t know the other regions,” added American Leadership Academy head coach Antonio Mendieta. “We’ve never seen them.”
As far as the numbers are concerned, Judge Memorial is the clear favorite.
The Bulldogs were undefeated in region play (Region 13), they scored the second-most goals by any team this year (57), and most importantly, they have yet to lose to a classification team.
“If I was to pick a favorite I think it’s Judge,” Emery head coach Troy Winter said.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs is a trio of forwards, Joseph Paul, Jack Terrill and Gedeon Baende. The attackers combined to score 47 of the team’s goals.
“We intend to score,” said Terrill. “It doesn’t happen by accident. That is what we work on all the time, getting behind the defense and scoring the ball.”
The biggest threat to a Bulldog title run might come out of their own region, in either Summit Academy or Morgan.
“Morgan is a quality soccer team, in all facets of the game,” said Winter, whose team fell to the Trojans 7-0 in a preseason tournament.
“Summit Academy will be a good challenge for us,” added Mendieta, whose Eagles host the Bears in the opening round.
Both teams have thrived defensively, limiting their opponents to some of the lowest goal totals in the state.
Outside Region 13, Emery (the Region 15 champions), American Leadership Academy, Carbon and Delta (Region 14 champion) all have a chance at a deep playoff run, on paper at least.
“You never want to overlook anybody, especially teams you haven’t seen before,” said Terrill. “Anyone can beat anyone, including us.”