Prep soccer: Title chase begins tonight in Region 9

Snow Canyon vs. Juan Diego, 3A state soccer championship, Sandy, Utah, May 14, 2016 | Photo by A.J. Griffin, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – There’s only one game tonight, but the Dixie at Desert Hills soccer match marks the official beginning of the Region 9 boys soccer season. It will be five weeks of intense rivalry action to find a region champ and qualifiers for the state playoffs.

Region 9 is generally viewed, top to bottom, as the best 3A region in the state, so expect the region contenders to also contend for the state title. Here’s a quick look at each team as we head into region play:

Cedar Redmen

Cedar is on a five-game losing streak, but hope to prove a tough preseason schedule will lead to a more prepared team.

Cedar head coach Scott Kamachi said the team will be ready for the Region 9 slate.

“We want to be a more balanced team this year,” he said. “We are just trying to improve our position in region.”

Cedar placed fourth in Region 9 last year, making the playoffs, but losing to Canyon View in the first round.

There were things in the preseason that went well, but there’s always something to work on.

“Our midfield played well,” Kamachi said. “We need to play better offensively by trying to get the ball in the offensive third.”

Kamachi is excited to see what newcomers Joddie Arakaza and Billy Beschime from Africa can do for the team.

Cedar will begin the region play by hosting Snow Canyon Friday at 4 p.m.

“If we win a championship, then great. If not, hopefully we get in the playoffs and see what we can do there,” Kamachi said.

Desert Hills Thunder

Desert Hills played some tough teams in the preseason, and the Thunder ended up going 3-2, ending on a high note by beating Cyprus.

Thunder head coach Benji Nelson is happy with the way the team played through the preseason.

“I still like the way we’re playing. We’re very athletic,” he said.

Desert Hills is hoping to get above third place this year with a young team.

“We’re young. I think that’s part of the problem is that we’ve only got three seniors that start,” Nelson said. “Part of this is just experience of getting them to the varsity speed of play and learning how to play at this point.”

Desert Hills lost to the eventual champion, Juan Diego, last year in the second round.

Nelson likes his chances, but knows it will be tough to beat out the previous top two seeds Snow Canyon and Dixie.

“Dixie and Snow Canyon are the other two teams that are going to be real tough in the region,” Nelson said. “We’re going to just focus on what we do best. We’ll come ready, and we’ll do what we’re going to do, try to possess and create opportunities.”

Desert Hills will start region play by hosting Dixie tonight at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Nelson said. “We’ve played Dixie a lot of times, we know how they play, they know how we play. I think which team gives more effort is going to be the difference. We’ll just come do our thing, and may the best team win.”

Dixie Flyers

Dixie finished its preseason with a draw against Copper Hills and a 3-1-1 record.

Dixie head coach Burt Myers knows the team is young, playing well, but knows there’s things to work on.

“We don’t have a lot of seniors, it’s kind of a young tea,” he said. “We’re not holding our shape well. We’re not holding the ball in the 50-50’s well yet, so that’s some things we can work on.”

One of Dixie’s stars, Jose “Tauri” Morales is a junior, but already has scored five goals in just five games.

“I think when the kids step on the field, they’re trying to become better players,” Myers said.

Dixie begins its Region 9 play by visiting Desert Hills tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Hurricane Tigers

Hurricane is looking to make the playoffs this year after finishing last year’s campaign on the outside looking in.

Tigers head coach Jeff Fry is hoping with a more experienced team, the Tigers can make that leap into the playoffs.

“Some of our expectations are to have a ‘plus season,’ in particular with goal differential and wins/losses,” Fry said. “Last year, we had a very fresh team with only a few with varsity experience. This year, I expect my (eight) returning seniors to have a solid season. We have added a few other seniors that did not play last year that we feel will bring us to the next level.”

Hurricane started the season strong against some weaker opponents, then struggled against Stansbury and West, which may be some of the toughest teams they face all year.

The Tigers are sitting at 2-2, but the real season starts this week with region play.

Fry is excited about one of his younger players, Dayton Elison, to step up this year.

“(He) has been very impressive lately,” he said. “This season, he has matured to another level and really gets the ideas we’re trying to produce in our attack.”

Hurricane will start its region slate at home against Pine View on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“Overall, we are very grateful for the time these young men have put in to improve not only on the field, but in the classroom,” Fry said. “I’m proud to be their coach and look forward to a great step forward this year with all the team, young and old.”

Pine View Panthers

Pine View has 10 seniors on the team, so the Panthers are hoping to have an edge on experience.

Panthers first-year head coach Ryan Duckworth was impressed with the amount of athletes that came out to tryouts. The Panthers had 71 student-athletes come out.

“That made it a very tough task as a coach to have to turn away so many young men interested in participating for their school,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth’s goals may not be fully focused on the outcome of games, but on the outcome of his athletes.

“(I’m hoping) that all 10 of my seniors on the team graduate and receive their diploma,” he said. “I’d like to see our team exemplify high standards on and off the field. I hope that we can establish some leadership and represent Pine View well. I expect our student-athletes to be good sportsmen – respect our opponents, officials, fans, our teammates and the game. I expect our team to bring a valiant effort to each one of our matches. The ‘key’ for our squad will be finding the cohesiveness needed as a team.”

Duckworth is hoping that captain Aaron Canales will step up for the team.

“We are going to be looking for some leadership from him this season and we have full confidence in him,” Duckworth said. “We also have some juniors and a sophomore or two that will contribute to the success of the Pine View program this year. I am looking forward to seeing their growth and leadership develop this season as well.”

Pine View will start its season with a match against Hurricane on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Snow Canyon Warriors

Snow Canyon is coming out of the preseason with a 4-1 record, losing only to Copper Hills.

The Warriors will be one of the favorites again as the team placed first last year, made it to the state title game, but lost to Juan Diego.

Technical director Zac Hales expects the team to play as well as possible every match.

“Play our best soccer every time we’re on the field,” Hales said. “The results should show it on the field. As long as we give 100 percent, that’s all we’re asking for.”

Snow Canyon has scored 17 goals in the first five games of the season, but Max Kemp, Ben Kemp and Alex Thoren each have three to lead the team. Six other athletes also have scored, so the Warriors share the ball extremely well.

“One game at a time, focusing and practice,” keeper Quinn Hargis said.

Snow Canyon will start its region season with a match against Cedar Friday at 4 p.m.

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