4A boys soccer playoffs: Dixie, Snow Canyon advance; 3 Region 9 teams eliminated

ST. GEORGE — Region 9 could have placed as many as four teams in the quarterfinals of the 4A boys soccer state tournament. Instead, it’ll send its two top squads after an upset and a road loss Wednesday afternoon.

No. 14 Cedar soccer at No. 3 Dixie, Dixie High School, St. George, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News / Cedar City News

The Region 9 co-champion Dixie Flyers and Snow Canyon Warriors will each move on to the next round, while Cedar, Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills all saw their seasons end in Wednesday’s second round. No. 14 Cedar fell against Dixie in St. George. The No. 6 Crimson Cliffs Mustangs were upset in comeback, penalty-kick victory for No. 11 Ridgeline, while No. 10 Desert Hills fell on the road to No. 7 Mountain Crest.

Dixie and Snow Canyon will get a full week of rest before returning to their home pitches for the final time this season, as next Wednesday’s quarterfinals will determine who advances to Jordan High School for the semifinals on May 17, with the 4A state finals taking place the following day at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

Here are recaps from Wednesday’s playoff action involving Region 9 teams:

No. 3 Dixie 5, No. 14 Cedar 1

The Reds came into Walt Brooks Stadium with a chip on their shoulder. They were an outlier in Region 9’s top group but had already won one playoff game against another region team on Friday against Canyon View. The Reds had also played Dixie tough in the first two games of the season, even if they lost.

No. 14 Cedar soccer at No. 3 Dixie, Dixie High School, St. George, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News / Cedar City News

However, on a hot St. George afternoon, it would be Dixie that flew past the Reds.

“Super glad to get the win,” Dixie head coach Travis Wilkinson said. “Cedar’s come on strong, that’s not an easy team. That’s a team that’s very capable of finding goals and even when we let off just a little bit they were so quick to expose us a little bit.”

The Flyers wanted to use the hot temperature on the synthetic turf to their advantage as the thermometer climbed into the 90s. Head coach Travis Wilkinson wanted to get the Cedar backline active early, sending deep passes over their heads and down the wings to turn them around and use the Flyers’ speed to pressure them early. It worked, as Dixie drew early shooting opportunities and saw the wear-and-tear on the Reds backline increase throughout the match.

After a few fine chances, including shots by Iker Meza and Jorge Quintero just seconds apart that they both pulled wide left of the net, Dixie broke through just before the 20-minute mark of the first half as Denrick Tahual cleaned up a cross from Briggs Mclauchlin from the left wing, tipping it off the keeper Dagan Murray and inside the post. They added another just minutes later in similar fashion as a deep pass found Rene Bernal all alone in the left corner, centering it to Jorge Quintero who rolled it far-side past Murray.

Bernal got himself on the scoresheet just five minutes after that and the 3-0 lead carried into halftime.

No. 14 Cedar soccer at No. 3 Dixie, Dixie High School, St. George, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News / Cedar City News

Wilkinson said he wanted to see the fruits of the temperature advantage play out in the second half, and it appeared to do so early. The Flyers peppered Cedar with scoring opportunities before Tahual scored his second of the game in the sixth minute. Shortly after, however, the momentum shifted a bit.

“I thought we’d come out in the second half and we’d show that those guys would fall off fast and we’d have the stamina, but I felt like both teams fell off hard,” Wilkinson said.

Cedar started to put the pressure on Dixie’s backline and Edgar Arana broke through for the Reds just five minutes after the preceding Tahual goal, beating Dixie keeper Carlos Diaz low and to the left.

Bernal corrected the misdeed with his second of the game just a minute after that, dribbling through Murray and tapping in the wide-open shot, bringing the game to its final score.

Cedar had some more looks, including a chance that pulled Diaz out of the net to challenge a rush. He slid into the Cedar player aggressively and drew a red card, forcing Dixie to turn to Carson Greer. Greer made a nice one-on-one sprawling save and didn’t allow any additional Cedar damage.

The red card also means that Greer will be the man for Dixie in the next round as Diaz, the normal starter, will have to sit. Being without his starting goalie isn’t a concern to Wilkinson, as the two keepers battled for the job earlier in the year.

No. 14 Cedar soccer at No. 3 Dixie, Dixie High School, St. George, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Carson has been here every day, one of the unsung heroes of this team,” Wilkinson said. “Sometimes it’s questionable, even at the first of the year we were rotating the two of them and we wanted to settle and Carlos won that battle but seeing Carson come out, pick up the reins and make a great save, distribute the ball as well as he did, I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Following Crimson Cliffs’ loss, Dixie will take on No. 11 Ridgeline. It will be the first time since March 12 the Flyers have faced a team outside Region 9.

Wilkinson, who was “nervous” about the prospect of facing several Region 9 teams again in the playoffs, is excited for the new challenge.

Dixie was also given their trophy for winning the Region 9 title following the game.

No. 11 Ridgeline 1, No. 6 Crimson Cliffs 1 (Ridgeline wins shootout 4-3)

The Mustangs saw their first season come to an end in upset fashion at home as the Riverhawks put the pressure on with a late lead and eventually topped Crimson in a penalty-kick shootout.

Ridgeline boys soccer at Crimson Cliffs, 4A state soccer playoffs, Washington City, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Defense dominated the game and neither team scored in the first half. Ridgeline broke through first with just nine minutes remaining in the game and backing the Mustangs up to the wall. However, Ramon Mitchell Squires knotted the game with less than a minute to go in the game off an assist from Peter Butterfield.

Neither team scored in the two overtime periods and sent the contest to PKs. The Mustangs missed their second and fourth shots while Ridgeline converted on four of their shots to win the shootout and send Crimson packing.

Ridgeline advances to play at Dixie on May 12.

Crimson Cliffs finishes its first full season with a 12-5 overall record and a 10-4 in Region 9 that netted them third place. The Mustangs beat Dixie 4-3 in March and took Snow Canyon to overtime just three days later. Head coach Isaac Klingonsmith deemed the season “a success,” but is left with a bittersweet taste due to how it ends.

“We played beautiful soccer and scored a bunch of goals,” Crimson Cliffs head coach Isaac Klingonsmith said. “We did not expect to go out in the first round of the playoffs. This last loss was the toughest of the year.”

No. 4 Snow Canyon 6, No. 13 Ben Lomond 0

The favorite Warriors took control early and rode it to victory against the Scots with the top-scoring duo of Jake Wittwer and Sanders Esplin each recording hat tricks.

Jake Wittwer started the scoring early, beating the middle defender to open up space and going right-side to put the ball past the keeper and into the net less than 10 minutes into the contest. That would be the only score of the first half, although the Warriors had the majority of chances during the frame.

Sanders Esplin scores for Snow Canyon, Ben Lomond boys soccer at Snow Canyon, 4A state soccer playoffs, St. George, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Snow Canyon head coach Zac Hales said he told his players at halftime that they hadn’t played well enough as a team.

“That’s not how we play. There’s too much individuality going on. We didn’t have each other’s back.” Hales said he told his players.

Snow Canyon expanded their lead quickly in the second half, holding Ben Lomond near midfield after the kickoff before forcing a turnover. In transition, Wittwer found Sanders Esplin down the right side with room, who sniped the inside of the near post from about 15 yards out around 30 seconds into the half.

“They came out for 30 seconds, pressed together; we were as a unit,” Hales said. “We won the ball, got it into the center and put it away. And it completely changed the atmosphere for us moving forward.”

Esplin brought the Warriors’ lead to three roughly 10 minutes later after Wittwer deflected a throw-in from the left side into the middle of the goalie box to a wide-open Esplin, one-timing it to the near post. Around the 26-minute mark, Sanders broke loose down the middle, chipping the ball over the Scots keeper, leaving the net wide open. The ball rolled wide right near the baseline, forcing him to center it to Wittwer for the tap in rather than complete the hat trick.

Ben Lomond boys soccer at Snow Canyon, 4A state soccer playoffs, St. George, Utah, May 5, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Wittwer got his hat trick just three minutes later, dribbling through three Scots defenders down the right side before left-footing it near-post as the keeper came out to challenge.

Esplin netted his third goal around the 8-minute mark of the second half as a handball was called inside the goalie box, awarding a penalty kick. Esplin took the shot and went low right-side to beat the netminder.

Despite the Warriors’ less than stellar first half, Hales said he was “more than happy” with how they played in the second.

“Hopefully, moving forward, we can get that second-half performance whenever we come out,” he said.

Xavier Pinna earned the shutout at goalkeeper for the Warriors.

Snow Canyon will stay at home next week and face No. 5 seed Sky View in the quarterfinals on May 12.

No. 7 Mountain Crest 5, No. 10 Desert Hills 4 (2OT)

At Mountain Crest, the Mustangs built an early 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes, but Desert Hills got goals from Shayden Scott and Bridger Heaton to narrow the gap to 3-2 at halftime. Mountain Crest then scored on a penalty kick to push the lead to 4-2, but Desert Hills was able to tie the score 4-4 in regulation, thanks to goals by Gage Lewis and Dawson Barker.

Neither team scored in the first overtime, but Mountain Crest scored off a corner kick during the second OT period to get the sudden-death victory. 

“We had lots of great chances,” said Desert Hills head coach Benji Nelson. The Thunder’s strong season ended with an overall record of 10-7, including 10-4 in Region 9.

St. George News reporter JEFF RICHARDS contributed to this report.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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