SANDY – Just a few inches here and there in the final minutes of the match kept the Snow Canyon Warriors from equalizing against undefeated Juan Diego, which prevailed 1-0 and won the 3A State Championship Saturday at Alta High School.
Juan Diego, which took the lead late in the first half via Brandon Sands’ 30-yard free kick, held off Snow Canyon’s second half full-field press and a furious series of attacks on goal in the closing minutes to prevail. Juan Diego’s sophomore goalkeeper, Martin Kelly, denied Snow Canyon’s best scoring opportunity, a beautiful header from Parker Jenkins in final minute, to seal the Soaring Eagle win.
“We started losing control of the game,” Kelly said. “But in the last few minutes I did everything I could to keep the ball out of the net and I have never wanted anything more than to win this game right here today. It was just a great feeling.”
Juan Diego head coach Scott Platz chuckled nervously when asked about his impression of the final game-sealing save.
“It was in, it was in,” Platz said. “Now Marty is often referred to as ‘Mr. Stalwart’ back there and he has a great defense in front of him, but he makes the big saves when we need a big save, and that there was the biggest save of his career.”
Snow Canyon’s Angel Muniz, Alex Vichi and Kevin Chillen all saw good looks at the goal in the second half and each attempt sailed out. Muniz, in particular, tantalizingly saw his 25-yard free kick attempt with 10 minutes to go skim the crossbar on it’s way over the goal. At the end of the day, SC was simply unable to find the back of the net.
Juan Diego, which capped a perfect 18-0 season and recorded its 14th shutout of the year, tied the state record for least amount of goals allowed in a season at five, originally set by Brighton in 2006. The Soaring Eagle are the 2016 3A state soccer champions with today’s victory.
Most of the first half was an intense scoreless battle. In the 30th minute, Juan Diego drew a penalty foul and Soaring Eagle striker Michael DiGeronimo, who Friday scored the golden goal over Dixie, lined up for the penalty kick against Snow Canyon’s Quinn Hargis. Hargis, dived to his left and impressively parried the attempt, keeping things knotted up.
With just three minutes to go before halftime, Juan Diego earned a free kick from 30-yards out and Sands put it on frame for what would prove to be the lone goal of the day.
“So I saw their goalie on the far post and there wasn’t really a wall so I just a took a chance for it,” Sands said. “It was absolutely amazing for our team. I’ve hit the post twice on that kind of a shot, but that is my first goal like that this year.”
Despite the title game loss, Snow Canyon senior Jenkins reflected on what he said was a perfect career.
“You know, I’d say it’s been the perfect season,” Jenkins said. “And what I mean by that is it’s been the perfect four seasons. It’s been always a colossal battle, there has never been an easy game, and every game has prepared us for this point.”
Warrior head coach Marc Wittwer added that despite losing a close one, this season was still a great one.
“It was a tough loss,” Wittwer said. “But I told the boys they came out winners today. We pressed them all second half and we had lots of opportunities and they just didn’t go in. The seniors have been stellar. They have been fantastic. This has been the best Snow Canyon team we have ever had.”
The Snow Canyon Warriors finish their 2016 campaign, 15-4-1 and took 2nd place overall in 3A.
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