SANDY — It is a cliche heard throughout sports — "Nobody believed in us."
In the Weber Warriors case, it holds true.
Heading into the season, the Warriors were considered, at best, the third-best team out of Region 1, behind the Layton Lancers and Davis Darts.
Heading into the state tournament, as a No. 3 seed, few prognostications suggested Weber would advance further than the quarterfinals, if that.
After each successive playoff victory, a first-round win over Herriman, then a quarterfinal triumph over Cyprus and a semifinal beatdown of defending champion Pleasant Grove, the expectation was Weber would lose, its playoff run cut short of a state title.
Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, they proved everyone wrong.
Weber defeated Copper Hills 1-0 in the 6A state championship, earning the program's first title since 2004 in the process.
“Nobody believed we could do it,” Weber head coach Jan Swift said. “We especially believed our boys could and they did.”
“Nobody believed in us but us, and it feels so good,” added goalkeeper Charles Wheelwright.
Better known as Charlie, Wheelwright was nearly perfect in the game, with five saves in a shutout performance.
“We proved all the doubters wrong,” he said. “It has been 15 years for Weber. This is awesome.”
“No one believed in us,” Luke Johnson added, for good measure. “It is everything. This proves everyone wrong who didn’t even think we’d even win the first game (of the tournament). Weber is back.”
Kolton Obray scored the game’s only goal, on a picturesque free kick taken by Johnson, one of the only highlights from a hotly contested final.
The Grizzlies, Region 3 champions and competing in their first state title game, gave the Warriors everything they could handle.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Swift said. “They are a heck of a team.”
In their places were Dayson Barnes and Noah Perkins, who proved up to the task.
“We had to put players in that had never started before, but we figured someone would have to step up and help us,” Swift said. “They did. They performed great. Proud of them. It means a lot. It has been a hard battle this year. We have had ups and downs, but we still managed to play some good ball.”
The best example of that came in the 26th minute, when Obray’s header found the back of the net.
Johnson took the free kick from 40 yards away, and his service found Obray for his first and only goal this season.
“I just whipped it in hoping someone was there,” said Johnson. “Kolton headed it in. It was amazing. Honestly, I was shocked. I’ve kicked those too many times. Millions of times.”
“As soon as it went off his head I knew it was going in,” Wheelwright added. “If you had seen me I was flipping out. It was awesome. That totally lifted a lot of weight off our shoulders.”
The score changed the game in more ways than one, however, as Copper Hills attacked with a renewed purpose from there on.
“They were pissed and came right at us,” Wheelwright said.
The goalie proved up to the task, making save after save, including a final save with a minute remaining, in a 1v1 situation, that sealed the win.
“I had to come ready,” he said. “I knew that my team was going to need me at some point. It was just pure reaction, but those are the things we train for. Credit to my coaches for making me train for those so when I got in that situation it was just natural.”Comment on this story
“Charlie has had some fantastic games,” added Swift. “He has made hard, challenging saves. He has come through for us, and has been an anchor in the back. Just an awesome player.”
Thursday night, every Warrior was.
“They battled through a lot of adversity and came through,” said Swift. “I am proud of them.”
Hearkening back to a topic of discussion from earlier this week about graduation ceremonies taking precedence over the state title, Swift added one tiny tidbit.
“I hope I don’t get in trouble, but I said, what are you going to remember the most, your graduation or the state championship trophy? I think the answer is clear.”