WOODS CROSS — Fremont boys soccer coach Fred Smith knew Parker Preator was frustrated.
The Silver Wolves earned an overtime victory against Taylorsville in the 5A quarterfinals last Friday, but Preator missed three or four scoring opportunities to put that game away.
“He felt like he could have almost lost it for us with those,” Smith said. “We told him, ‘We’re going to take you aside and work with you.’”
So Smith and Preator spent Monday’s practice working on finishing, and in Fremont's semifinal matchup against Region 1 rival Layton on Tuesday evening, that extra work paid dividends.
In just the 14th minute, the senior forward buried the ball in the back of the net, giving Fremont the lead and eventually the 1-0 win, sending the Silver Wolves to the 5A championship game.
“Just joy. It just feels good,” Smith said. “It makes that game, that exciting game (against Taylorsville) that happened on Friday, worth it because that game doesn’t mean anything without this.”
Although only one goal was scored, Preator was big throughout the contest. He drew constant attention from opposing defenders and had multiple shots in spite of the crowd.
“He has lots of confidence in his shots. He’s OK if he misses,” Smith said. “You have to have that because you’re not going to make every one. The team trusts him (and) I think that helped his confidence a little bit. Right now we need all the confidence in the world.”
Making Preator's goal count was goalkeeper Brayden Nielsen, who used a handful of tricky moves to secure his fourth shutout of the season. Near the end of the first half, Nielsen made a diving save but, when the ball remained in play, he made another save — with his stomach.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Silver Wolves had faced and beaten the Lancers twice during Region 1 play. The first contest, a 2-0 victory, was in the middle of April and the second, a 3-2 win, was in May — the last day of the regular season. It was a game that capped a three-game losing streak for the Lancers, who were fired up and ready to take out Fremont in their third meeting.
“We told (our players) that they’re a different Layton team than we played in the past,” Smith said. “I saw more intensity from them. They were going a little bit harder and faster, and they should. This is the semifinals — you better bring your A-game.”
As time ticked away, intensity turned into chippiness. With 10 minutes remaining, Layton goalkeeper Isaac Hunter cleared a ball just outside the box and, as he walked back to the goal, chest-bumped Preator, who was 50 yards away from the play.
“I think they’ve played each other on the comp (team) levels, they’re teammates on comp levels, as well as just high school,” Smith said of what he felt sparked the intensity. “Region 1 is a tough region and when you play a team twice and you have to play them a third time in the semifinals, if there isn’t anything chippy then there’s something going on.”
The Silver Wolves of Fremont advance to play the Silverwolves of Riverton in the title game at 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday. It will be the first meeting this season between the two schools, and Smith is just happy to be there.
“It feels so good,” he said. I’m just so proud of these boys.”
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.