MURRAY – When Olympus met Murray in the 2012 state championship game, it did more than decide the 4A title.
It also catapulted the two teams into an aggressive soccer rivalry. That intensity was noticeable Friday afternoon on Murray High’s new artificial turf field.
At the end of the Region 7 opener for both teams, Chris Oregon sent a penalty kick into the net in overtime to lift Murray to a 2-1 win. The victory didn’t make up for the Spartans' title-game loss two years ago, but it felt good to them on this cool afternoon.
“The second half was ours, the first half was theirs. That’s how these games seem to go,” said Murray coach Bryan DeMann. “They were more aggressive early on, and then we started to match it.”
Ultimately, Oregon’s kick sailing perfectly into the back corner of the net made the difference. DeMann said the Spartans hadn’t spent much time practicing penalty kicks. After Nate Christensen was tripped in the penalty box, DeMann said he knew right away who to pick.
“Chris was on our team last year. We (hadn't) had any penalty kicks this year, but I’ve always liked his consistency. We knew he would be calm and pick a spot.”
The win improved Murray’s record to 2-1-1 on the season and 1-0 in region. Olympus fell to 3-2 and 0-1. Still, Titans coach Chris Sonntag wasn’t too disappointed.
“It still hurts right now, but we’ll see them again (April 8 at Olympus) and it wouldn’t surprise me if we met a third time (in the 4A tournament),” he said. “It’s always a battle.”
Olympus led 1-0 at halftime on a goal by Mason Earl. The Titans used their midfield play to keep Murray at bay and, even though the Spartans turned things around eventually, goalkeeper Sam Omer kept Murray frustrated by stopping several shots.
It wasn’t until Christensen kicked in a rebound with his left foot with 17 minutes to go in the second half that the Spartans got on the scoreboard.
“That was an important goal,” Sonntag said. “It didn’t just tie the game, but it gave them a lot of momentum. We tried to get it back, but couldn’t.”
A few minutes later, Murray’s Sean Speirs seemingly gave Murray the lead, but the official ruled Omer had possession before it was poked free. The latter moments of regulation were filled with aggressive play, including a two-player collision and a pair of yellow cards.
“Murray got us out of our game and then things got out of hand, but it was a great game between two good teams,” Sonntag said.
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.