The Layton-based La Roca Premier U16 boys team were like a rock -- enduring onslaughts and playing solid soccer against elite teams from across the nation to win the Schwan's USA Cup Weekend tournament earlier this month.
Winning the tournament came with not only medals and a trophy, but also an all-expenses paid trip to Newcastle, England, to train with the English Premier League team.
"In the past this team has won several state cup championships, participated in regionals and done well, but they've never won it," said Coach Danny Parkhurst. "I would say this tournament is the highest level tournament they've won."
Parkhurst said that although they were playing a Minnesota team in its home state, the stands came alive during the final game with shouts for La Roca.
"We were playing this academy team from Minnesota, so they had a large fan base of about 1,500 to 2,000 people in the stadium, but about midway through the second half, we just hear the stands: 'Let's go La Roca!' And we had a total of maybe eight to nine parents who came out with us, but the stadium was reverberating. They knew we were the underdog and wanted us to win and were rooting for us," said Parkhurst.
"We never gave up," said Jayce Call, a captain on the team. "That was one of our themes. During one our of games, it might have been the first playoff game, they would score a goal, and a few minutes later we would come back. That happened three times, and we went into overtime and scored a last minute goal to win. We just kept fighting."
During bracket play La Roca played four games. They won two of those games and tied one to place second in their bracket and move to the semifinals.
"We won the first playoff game by a last-minute goal, so that was pretty cool," said Call.
Parkhurst said his team had a work ethic that helped them out-play the other teams in the tournament.
"Three out of our last four games we went into overtime. They were all edge-of-your-seat, nerve wracking -- all the intensity you want," he said.
The championship game against Minnesota Thunder Academy went into two overtimes after being tied 2-2 in regulation time. With La Roca down one man after two red cards, they held on and the game went to penalty kicks. In the eighth round of penalty kicks, keeper Joe Wheelwright saved the goal and La Roca won 3-2.
"It was pretty cool," said Call about the win. "I was very excited and very exhausted. Everyone was tired because we were down a player and the whole tournament we worked very hard and didn't have very many subs."
Parkhurst said that all the boys on the team are talented enough to receive scholarship offers, but they also know how to work.
"One of the adages I told the boys at the beginning of the tournament was 'work will beat skill if skill won't work,'" said Parkhurst. "The bottom line is that the other boys there were as skilled or maybe more skilled, but the message is that we have got to work hard. Soccer is a game of running and a game of work, and the boys on this team just had the ability to keep going. They're easily coached, respectful, and when you demand more from these kids they buckle down and give you more. They just played themselves into exhaustion."
In addition to Call and Wheelwright, the La Roca Premier U16 team consists of Chandler Baddley, Tyler Bishop, Andrew Castillo, Lucas Cawley, Kyle Coffee, Zachary Dixon, Parker Freitag, Victor Galindo-Camarena, Bryan Garibay, Gui Leme, Jonathan Rodriguez, Moab Schiers, Landon Summers, John Tesch, and Matthew Warne. Parkhurst and Felipe Diaz coach the elite Davis and Weber county team.