DRAPER — For most of his life, Brighton sophomore Cameron Neeley, Cam as he’s better known, has been in the shadow of his older brother Brennan.
That is, of course, often the reality of being the younger brother, and it held true on the soccer field as well — at least through Cam’s entire freshman season at Brighton, not to mention this his sophomore year with the Bengals.
“He has been playing in the shadow of his brother for years,” Brighton head coach Brett Rosen said.
After Tuesday afternoon’s 5A semifinal game against the Skyridge Falcons, Cam is no longer in anyone’s shadow.
Neeley netted the game-winning goal in the contest between the Bengals and Falcons, lifting Brighton to a 3-2 victory over Skyridge and into the state championship game.
“It is great,” Rosen said. “Brighton has a great history that includes 22 region championships and six state championships. It has been 10 years since we’ve won though, so we have been fighting to get back there. We are excited to be there.”
Cam Neeley’s goal came late in the game, with the score knotted at two goals apiece.
The sophomore found himself alone with the ball in the box, and a swift kick and slight deflection later and it found the back of the net.
“Honestly, I don’t remember much, other than that the ball dropped at my feet and I took advantage of it,” Cam Neeley said. “It has taken me awhile, almost the whole season, to start executing, but I just came to it and I did it.”
Neither team could do much in the way of execution early, and with a minute remaining in the first half the foes appeared destined to enter the break in a scoreless tie.
Just before halftime Brighton got the first breakthrough of the game, however, when Alex Fankhauser found Loomis for the score.
Fankhauser was hurt on the play — Loomis was banged up from an earlier play as well — a significant blow considering his status of the premier goal scorer on the Bengals.
The injury didn’t appear to faze the team, though, and two minutes into the second half Brennan Neeley added another Brighton goal, this time on a free kick from 32 yards away.
“Our two forwards got hurt and Fankhauser wasn’t able to get back in. Josh (Loomis) luckily was able to get back in,” Rosen said. “Our guys just decided that they wanted it. They pushed forward more and we got the goal.”
Down two goals, Skyridge answered almost immediately.
Wallace and Goodwin netted their goals within the opening 20 minutes of the half, tying the game at 2-2.
Lacking momentum and with Skyridge in danger of running away with it, Brighton responded.
“All year we have talked about staying present,” Rosen said. “Whether we are up two or just let up two goals, we were going to act like we always do. We were going to attack; we were going to defend. Nothing changes for us mentally. Instead of letting down, we just kept going.”
The Bengals’ surge culminated in Cam Neeley’s goal, just his fourth this season.
“He is a heck of a player.” Rosen said. “He will fight every second of every game and that is what he did today.”Comment on this story
“We just stayed calm, cool and collected,” Cam Neeley said. “We tried to help each other stay calm and got back into the game. We slowly worked our way back into it and executed our chances when we got them.”
“This is what we have worked towards all season,” he added. “Our (team) shirts say ‘Trust the Process.’ Every training, everything has worked up to this point. Now, we need to execute in the final.”
The Bengals will play Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium in the 5A state championship game against the winner of Olympus and Wasatch.