DRAPER — Over the last few years, the Copper Hills Grizzlies have been arguably one of the top soccer teams in state, in the largest classifications at that.
The Grizzlies have won at least 10 games every season since 2009, after all, with each regular season followed by a subsequent playoff berth.
For all their considerable success, however, the Grizzlies had never made it to a state championship game, having fallen short in the semifinals three times in the last eight seasons, most recently in 2017.
Copper Hills defeated Granger 2-1 in overtime in the 6A semifinals, played Tuesday afternoon at Juan Diego Catholic High School, earning the team’s first state title game berth.
Marko Robles and Jeremy Slick each netted goals for the Grizzlies, with Slick’s overtime score proving the game-winner.
“We’ve been to the semifinals four times,” Copper Hills Eddie Moura said. “We sat down with the kids and said, ‘Hey, this team is very, very talented. It would be a shame for you guys to not put the effort into every single game.’
“I think the kids understood that and they understood that it was our time. We wanted to make history for the school, for the community, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The win marked the third consecutive overtime victory for the Grizzlies, who topped Lone Peak in the quarterfinals and Clearfield in the first round
“First round of the playoffs, overtime. Second round, overtime, and now this one,” Moura said, chuckling. “They didn’t care. They wanted this really bad. The chance to play in Rio Tinto is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Early on in the contest it appeared as though the Grizzlies wouldn’t need an overtime period to earn the title game berth.
The Region 3 champions’ midfield was dominant, controlling possession throughout most of the first half, which led to multiple goal-scoring opportunities, three for Johnny Castro in particular.
“We have a lot of talent in the midfield,” said Moura.
For all of Copper Hills’ early success, it was the Lancers who got on the scoreboard first.
The Lancers would take that 1-0 lead into the half.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Granger,” Moura said. “They are a fantastic team and Bewar (Yousif) does an amazing job with those kids. To have them where they were in the past and then to get this far, they gave us everything they could.”
The Grizzlies knotted the game at one goal apiece in the second half, when Robles drilled a shot from outside the 18 into the top left corner of the net, over the outstretched arms of Granger goalkeeper Angel Escobedo.
From that point on the game was scoreless, despite repeated attempts by the Grizzlies to end the game in regulation.
That trend continued into overtime, as both teams battled exhaustion.
“We demanded a lot from the kids,” said Moura. “We basically had only one or two subs, because the kids that we had are great athletes out there.”
Things appeared destined for penalty kicks — “We practiced PK’s every practice last month,” Moura said — until Slick found the back of the net.Comment on this story
“We never had an attitude where we were out of it,” said Moura. “I really believe these kids get to overtime and they know they are going to do it. In the huddle, when we talk, there is no doubt. No fear. The boys executed today.”
The Grizzlies will face off against the winner of the second 6A semifinal played Tuesday afternoon, between the Pleasant Grove Vikings and the Weber Warriors, in the state championship game.
The title game will be held at Rio Tinto Stadium Thursday night at 7 p.m.