We’ve all learned that working hard will get us somewhere. The whole team is dedicated and we are going to make something happen. —Park City's Georgie Pineda
SALT LAKE CITY — On the afternoon of April 4, the Park City Miners hosted the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle for a Region 11 contest. Thanks to goal scorers like Max Dufner and Johnny Flitton, amongst others, the Miners proved the better side that day, winning the game 4-3.
Three weeks later the teams met again, this time in Draper.
Thursday night at Judge Memorial High School the region rivals met for a third time.
This time it was in the state semifinals, with a berth in 4A state title game on the line.
“Playing someone three times is never easy,” Park City head coach Tom Merchant said. “These guys (Juan Diego) are tough. It is a battle every time.
“Juan Diego is a great team and we talked to the team before the game. We told them it is an honor to get this far, whether you win or lose.”
As it turns out, when it comes to games this season between the Miners and the Soaring Eagle, all Park City knows how to do is win.
Sophomore Georgie Pineda netted two goals, goalie Wesley Hoglin was unbeatable and Park City defeated Juan Diego 2-0, securing a berth in the 4A state title game.
“It has been a while (for Park City), so I am really excited,” Pineda said.
“No matter what happened in this game it would have been a successful season,” added Merchant. “It is awful hard. There is only one team in your division that ends up without a loss for their last game. These kids did everything they could tonight.”
That included playing in a different formation to start the game, a feat which proved a tad bit difficult for the Miners.
In fact, for much of the first half the Soaring Eagle looked the more composed and comfortable side.
They controlled time of possession, had multiple good looks at the goal — a shot by Seth Blesingim in the eighth minute surely would have gone into the back of the net if not for an incredible one-footed stab by Hoglin — and quite simply were the better team.
“We played ‘em twice (before) so we used a completely different formation then we did the first time,” Merchant said. “It was a tweak, but it made the kids nervous.
“The reality is we didn’t want to keep coming at (Juan Diego) the same way. They’d know what to look for.”
All of the Miners nerves disappeared in the 29th minute, thanks to Pineda.
On one of Park City’s few attacks of the half, Pineda was able to corral a rebound, the result of a shot by teammate Grayson McCall, and find the back of the net.
“I wasn’t sure what happened,” said Pineda. “I just served the ball in, it came back to me and I shot it with my left foot. I didn’t expect it to go in, but it did.”
That goal changed everything.
“The first goal made big difference for us,” said Merchant. “It was one of those things where it could have gone either way, but things changed quickly after that.”
From that point on, for the final 51 minutes of the game, the Miners looked the part of title contender.
They squashed Soaring Eagle runs, controlled the midfield and dominated defensively (Park City’s defensive backs were especially effective in the second half, limiting Juan Diego to just one shot on goal).
When Pineda netted another score, this one in the 66th minute, the game was over.
“Once we got a couple of goals we could sit back and play more defensive,” said Merchant. “Just pack it in and kick the ball to the other end of the field.”
After Thursday’s victory, all that is left for the Miners is a championship bout against the Desert Hills Thunder, and there will be no shortage of confidence on the Park City sideline.
“We’ve all learned that working hard will get us somewhere,” said Pineda. “The whole team is dedicated and we are going to make something happen.”