SANDY — All season long, the Brighton Bengals tried their best to remain in the moment, or in the present, as head coach Brett Rosen likes to say.
When they were predicted to be one of the premiere title contenders in 5A, they shrugged it off, and the same held true prior to the state tournament, when once again the Bengals were considered among the best teams in 5A.
Whether they were ahead in a game, like they were in their semifinal victory over Skyridge, or trailing, the Bengals tried their best to stay in the moment all year.
“We are going to act like we always do,” Rosen said. “We are going to attack; we are going to defend. Nothing changes for us mentally. We just kept going.”
That mindset was put to the test Thursday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Bengals trailed twice in the 5A state championship game — played against the Olympus Titans — which in and of itself was a moment more significant than any faced by the Bengals this season
In the biggest game of their high school careers, their focus on staying in the present paid off.
Brighton defeated Olympus 3-2 in overtime, rallying from a pair of deficits.
“Like I said all year, we stay in the present,” Rosen said. “We got down a goal, we came back. We got down another goal, we came back. We knew that if we kept fighting, kept doing what we do, we’d get a chance. We took advantage when we did.”
That chance came with under a minute remaining in the first overtime period of a 2-2 game, on a corner kick.
Senior Alex Fankhauser took the kick, but it was Jones, a senior himself, who finished it off to give the Bengals their first state title in 10 years.
“It is amazing,” said Jones. “It is my senior year. I have wanted that ring and I am so happy we got it. We worked so hard to get here. Going up to the 18, London (Botelho) told me to get a head on it, so I did. It was a little bit in slow motion.”
The Titans earned the first breakthrough of the contest, thanks in part to defensive back Logan Davies.
A difference maker in Olympus’ semifinal win over Wasatch, Davies found the Titans’ leading goal scorer Din Huremovic (12 goals) alone on the right side of the box in the 28th minute, and Huremovic did the rest, drilling the ball past Brighton goalkeeper Harrison Nuttall.
Following the score, Olympus appeared primed to stretch the lead even further on a pair of shot attempts by Huremovic’s younger brother, Ervin, but Nuttall and the Bengals’ defense held firm.
“Olympus is a tough team,” said Rosen. “They are strong and they are physical. We just had to work our way around it.”
Brighton did just that 14 minutes later, when Botelho hit the underside of the crossbar on a shot attempt from 30 yards away.
Almost poetically, he was in the game as a replacement for Brighton senior Josh Loomis, who was suspended for the title game.
In the Bengals’ semifinal victory earlier this week, Loomis was given a pair of yellow cards, the result of which is a red card and an automatic suspension for the next game, which in his case meant the title game.
In honor of the senior, Brighton wore black wristbands.
“Everyone wore black on their wrists for him,” said Rosen. “It was a travesty that he wasn’t able to play today. We wanted this for him and even though he wasn’t on the field he was still a big part of it. He was over here on the sideline cheering people on, doing everything he could to help us out. This win was for him and all the Bengal family.”
“He meant everything for us,” added Jones. “We all wore black wristbands for him today, to play for him.”1 comment on this story
Huremovic would go on to give Olympus another lead 4 minutes into the second half, a lead Brighton would negate some 20 minutes later when Neeley converted a penalty kick earned by Fankhauser, awarded due to a foul in the box by Olympus goalkeeper Ian Jones.
“Everyone stepped up today,” said Rosen, “especially our seniors.”
That goal led to a tie game at the end of regulation, a tie Jones would eventually break.
“Twenty years ago I played in this game,” said Rosen. “I didn’t think anything would be greater, but watching these kids come together and come back and win today, this is amazing.”