ST. GEORGE — Head coach Isaac Klingonsmith isn’t shy or coy about his team’s ability to play soccer.
“I like our chances,” Klingonsmith told St. George News. “When we’re on, we’re on. We’re unbeatable. We’ve got the talent to win out in region. It’s just a matter of showing up prepared every game.”
The Crimson Cliffs Mustangs haven’t been “on,” every game, but still have won every Region 9 contest they’ve played, the only team to be able to say that. After COVID-19 knocked out spring sports last year, this year is the Mustangs’ first shot at a regional title. They’re stampeding toward the crown with every game they play, with a 6-0 Region 9 record and 8-1 overall. Their only loss was on March 13, a 4-2 fall to 6A Skyridge.
On Tuesday night, they came from behind to beat Dixie. The Flyers scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game as the Mustangs came out flat. Rene Bernal broke loose down the left wing and beat Jack Monson with a roller less than three minutes into the game. Two seconds before the 30-minute mark, Denrick Tahual found space out front of the box to wind and fire inside the left post.
Crimson sharpened up, however, and closed the gap to a one-goal, 3-2 score by halftime. They got the equalizer in the second half on a goal by Kai Klingonsmith off a corner kick before Ramon Mitchell Squires took a controversial penalty that the Dixie coaching staff believed happened outside of the goalie box. Squires netted the ensuing penalty kick and the 4-3 score held up, even after Squires and Tyler Moon took red cards, as did Dixie’s Tahual, to give Crimson one fewer player on the field to fend off a late Flyers rally.
Coach Klingonsmith said his team, which has played inconsistent before, didn’t put together its best game. The Mustangs have to be ready to play at the opening kickoff and stay level-headed. They drew their third and fourth red cards in nine games total this season.
But they beat Dixie, which Klingonsmith said was validating.
“It was big,” he said. “Dixie’s a top team in the region. We let in a lot of easy goals, the first two goals were too easy. Fought our way back to 3-3 and got a PK and won, which was great.”
The Flyers presented Crimson with its first major test. The Mustangs had allowed only two goals through the first five Region 9 games, simultaneously scoring 16. Dixie, meanwhile, had mired the Snow Canyon offense on March 23 in a 1-0 overtime win. The Warriors, Crimsons’ Thursday opponent, lead the region in scoring, even after that game. The Flyers dealt Snow Canyon their only loss and entered Tuesday’s game 4-1 in Region 9 play.
Crimson cemented their right to play at their level with the victory, no matter how controversially it came. No other team still has a zero in their loss column in Region 9. Every team but Snow Canyon has at least two.
The Mustangs carry talent that almost appears cherry picked from across Region 9. Ramon Mitchell Squires and Kai Klingonsmith were at Desert Hills before Crimson Cliffs opened, where Klingonsmith ranked sixth in the league in scoring as a sophomore for the state champion in 2019. A sophomore this year, Andy Lagomarsino scored five goals as a freshman for Pine View and Moon had five points for Hurricane as a sophomore before the stoppage. Nick Delahunty, a senior force on defense, came by way of Westlake High School.
“We have just a high level of talent overall,” Klingonsmith said. “Bringing guys off the bench, we lose very little in terms of ability on the field.”
The Mustangs face their biggest test in their attempt to go undefeated in Region 9 on Friday. Crimson Cliffs hosts Snow Canyon for the first time as the Mustangs attempt to contain Jacob Wittwer, the region’s top scorer, and the rest of the Warriors. They’ll have to do it without Squires and Moon as they await suspensions following their red cards.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
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