Thursday , May 24, 2018 - 11:17 PM
SANDY — For 20 minutes after the goal — the final goal, the one that so cruelly ended the Viewmont Vikings’ season — Preston Pitt sat on the pitch halfway between the goal and midfield.
His hair was wet, his face was drenched with sweat and bore the look of stunned disbelief.
Stunned disbelief describes the Alta players’ reactions when they scored the golden goal to beat Viewmont 2-1 in the 5A state soccer title game Thursday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
That’s because it was an own goal during extra time, scored off a throw-in that clattered around in the box before ricocheting off a Viking defender and in.
“It sucks, but I’m always going to have my brothers backing me up, it’s just unfortunate,” Pitt said.
It was the cruel ending to what had been a spirited run through the playoffs by the third-seeded Vikings that started with a 3-2 win at West, a game they weren’t supposed to win.
Then there was the penalty shootout quarterfinal win after two teammates left the game injured, then the late goal scored in the semifinal win by Pitt, who’s headed to the University of Utah to kick on the football team.
Then the final, where Cole Fassler volleyed in a corner kick from 12 yards out to give Alta a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute. It looked like the Hawks would soar to back-to-back titles and a third championship in four years.
Despite that early goal, Viewmont had plenty of decent chances afterward. Alta’s defense lost track of Josh Beckman, who got in on the right side a minute after the goal and saw his shot from 18 yards go wide of the far post.
The Hawks got in the way of just about every Viewmont shot, save for a dipping half-volley hit by Nicholas Wood in the ninth minute that was heading for the top corner if not for a fantastic save by the Alta keeper.
Alta’s defense was packed in tighter than the lone stairwell that was open to accommodate the thousand-plus fans at the game.
“Well it hurts, it’s a pretty hard feeling. These guys battled to the very end, they fought their way back, got back into the game and really had a lot of chances to finish this off, but sometimes this happens in soccer,” Viewmont head coach Spencer Keddington said.
But that changed in the second half. James Ackley had a stinging low shot and Pitt hit a header that were both saved in the first 10 minutes of the half.
Pitt had been double-teamed by defenders in the first half, part of the reason the space was so clogged. One of the Vikings’ adjustments in the second half was to send him to the corners, spread the defense out and force the Hawks to play everyone straight up.
It paid dividends as Pitt came in from the left and had his shallow-angle, right-footed shot blocked out for a corner, one of six Viewmont corner kicks.
There was every indication Viewmont had the potential to respond and the players kept saying such, it just took the Vikings 57 minutes to do so.
When they did, it was Pitt, hitting a downward header from a corner kick into the top corner to equalize and set up a frantic final 13 minutes.
Preston Pitt with the equalizer in the 67th minute! 1-1 in the 5A title game pic.twitter.com/lBTND9rMW8— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) May 25, 2018
It set off a wild celebration from the Viewmont fans, who came packed with black streamers, confetti and fresh vocal chords that sent a noise reverberating throughout the stadium.
The only noise that was louder came from the Alta contingent when the ball rolled into the back of the net in extra time and the black-clad Viewmont players all dropped to the ground, hoping it was some sort of bad dream.
“You take what you can get,” Alta head coach Lee Mitchell said while holding the game ball in his left hand. “We put pressure on them and sometimes that happens.”
“They showed a lot of heart and worked hard, it took a wakeup call of them scoring for us to get back, I felt like play reversed after they scored. Great team.”
This is what it looks like. What a game, have to feel for Viewmont. That's a tough way for a game to end pic.twitter.com/MqUAvjZY3T— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) May 25, 2018
Mitchell, the winningest boys soccer head coach in Utah state history, won his eighth state soccer title as a coach, also the highest mark in the boys soccer coaching world in Utah.
Apart from the ending, the game was everything a state championship game should have been: back-and-forth, vibrant crowds, plenty of chances, drama, ecstasy and agony.
It looked as though Pitt and his teammates could’ve sat there all night until stadium workers turned off the lights. Then it was time to go.
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