SANDY — Practice makes perfect.
For the Bountiful High boys soccer team, that preparation meant a perfect 2-0 victory over the Orem Tigers Thursday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It also meant a 4A state title — the first for the team since 2008.
“I guess it’s true what they say about preparation,” head coach Lou Plank said afterward. “These guys are a testament to that.”
The Braves were the beneficiaries of two types of crucial practice this season. The first type: Plank’s experience at Rio Tinto when his Bountiful girls team lost to Bonneville in the final last fall.
“I think having taken second with the girls, it got me prepared to get these boys better prepared. It sort of gave us a dry run for these boys,” he said. “Some of the things that were awesome to the girls in the true sense of the word — like this venue and how it seems so much bigger than it actually is — that helped us prepare these boys.”
The second type of preparation came in practicing penalty kicks, a skill the Braves used in three of the their four state tournament games, including the final.
“As far as getting here, it wasn’t the way we planned it,” said Plank, whose team used shootouts to defeat Mountain View and Murray to reach the title game. “We practice lots of shootouts; rarely do we have to rely on them.”
The first Bountiful goal Thursday was scored in the 34th minute. Senior defender Bryce Carey put the sequence in motion with a free kick and then sophomore Alex Simpson sent the ball to the opposite corner.
Just 14 minutes later, senior Cesar Duenas netted a security goal via a penalty kick.
“It was a lot of pressure, but I knew I had to put it in the net for the team,” said the senior. “We practice PKs every day, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Even with the two-goal edge, the Braves never relented for the remainder of play, keeping the Tigers on their heels for the final 32 minutes.
Orem, which was seeking its first state championship since boys soccer became a sanctioned sport by the UHSAA in 1983, earned the Region 8 title en route to a 15-4-1 final record. The Tigers were led by leading scorer Daniel Corbett, who had 16 goals this season, the third-best standing in 4A.
Throughout the season, 11 different Bountiful players scored goals. Senior Kaleb Maynard led with six and four other players added five. For the Braves, it was a full team effort.
“I wouldn’t be here without all those guys,” Duenas said. “I just want to thank all my team, all my coaches, all the fans that are here. It’s amazing.”
Bountiful, the Region 6 champion, finished the season 13-3-2 and gave up just 21 goals with senior Josh Ludlow in the net. Plank said that in spite of a couple of setbacks — or perhaps because of them — the team was at its best on the last day of the season.
“We had a few hiccups, but that’s cathartic, I think, and helped us grow,” he said. “They had some ups and downs, but the graph of things was always climbing at a 45-degree angle; every performance was better than the last.
“This was, for all intents and purposes, their best performance of the season. They peaked just perfectly. This was the epitome of putting the best out there at the final.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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