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Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Waterford's Samuel Becker (28) deflects Niklas Nilsson shot into goal during the boys 2A state championship at Zions Bank Stadium at the RSL Academy in Herriman on Saturday, May 12, 2018.
It’s not new, but it always tastes just as sweet. This one feels just like the first one. This is a great group of guys and it is a lot of fun to be here. —Waterford head coach George Shirley

HERRIMAN — The rubber match was on, Saturday night at Zions Bank Stadium, between the Waterford Ravens and the Rowland Hall Winged Lions.

The pair of 2A teams, Region 17 rivals no less, met two times this year ahead of the 2A state championship game, each side pulling out a victory.

The Winged Lion took the first contest, on March 4, 2-1, while the Ravens triumphed in the sequel 4-3 on April 23.

Saturday night’s game provided the opportunity for one team to prove itself the better, once and for all.

Behind first half goals by Tate Reynolds and Samuel Becker, as well as a late score by Connor Smith, Waterford did just that, defeating Rowland Hall 3-0 and claiming the 2A state title.

The victory brings the state championship trophy back to Waterford after a one-year hiatus (Layton Christian Academy won the 2017 title). The Ravens have now won the state championship five times in the last ten years, including 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016 and now this season.

“It’s not new, but it always tastes just as sweet,” Waterford head coach George Shirley said. “This one feels just like the first one. This is a great group of guys and it is a lot of fun to be here.”

“We worked hard all season, for this,” added Reynolds. “We lost to these guys the first game of the season, but we came back and it feels amazing.”

“It’s good,” Becker chimed in. “Last year, we didn’t have a good year, but this year we won it, and that’ll give us confidence for next year.”

Reynolds recorded the first Waterford breakthrough, with 14 minutes remaining in the first half, when he overcame a Winged Lion defender, as well as Rowland Hall goalkeeper John Dreyfous, on a breakaway.

“It was kind of heat moment,” Reynolds said. “Kind of a sixth sense, instinct thing for me. Andrew McSlarrow passed it to me, and I just buried it.”

That goal changed the dynamic of the game. What had been closely contested game up to that point began to turn more and more in favor of the Ravens.

“That goal was sort of an icebreaker,” said Shirley. “Our confidence was high after yesterday (Waterford upset the defending champion Layton Christian Academy Eagles Friday). We felt we could control the ball in the midfield and we felt if we did that we could control the game. We did that tonight.”

“We came out and kept the pressure high,” added Reynolds. “We thought they’d crack.”

Becker took advantage of the cracks for his goal, an unusual score that he may have shared with teammate Niklas Nilsson.

Becker tried to head the ball into goal, only to have Dreyfous knock it down. In the scrum that followed, both Nilsson and Becker got a touch, directing the ball in the goal.

“The ball came in and I tried to flick it over the keeper,” said Becker. “He knocked it down and Niklas and I both went for it and I flicked it in.”

The Ravens took a 2-0 lead into halftime and only added to said advantage in the second half on Smith’s score, which came with just four minutes remaining.

By then, however, the game was over. Waterford was champion once again.

“We took a lot of games one game at a time this season, but we were always looking forward to this,” said Reynolds. “Beating (Rowland Hall) for the championship was big.”

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