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CHAMPS AGAIN: Weber boys soccer survives penalty shootout, repeats as state champions in historic fashion

By Patrick Carr standard-Examiner - | May 28, 2021
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Weber goalkeeper Stockton Short, center, raises the state championship trophy as the Warriors celebrate winning the 6A boys soccer state championship against Skyridge on Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. Weber won the match in a penalty kick shootout to repeat as champions, and gave up three goals all season while going 19-0.

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Weber forward Raul Rojas takes, and makes, what would be the game-winning kick during a penalty kick shootout to defeat Skyridge and win the 6A boys soccer state championship Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber forward Jake Youngberg, left, attacks against the defense of Skyridge's Seth James during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber High's soccer team meets fans in the stands after defeating Skyridge to win the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber forward Braden Bennett, left, and Skyridge's Anders Houghton battle for possession during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber fullback Jonathan McKinney, center, tries to dispossess Skyridge's Austin Wallace (20) of the ball during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber midfielder Colby Lee tries to control the ball against Skyridge during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber goalkeeper Stockton Short raises the state championship trophy after his team defeated Skyridge in the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber and Skyridge high schools are seen during the run of play in the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber fullback Ben Putnam reacts to a play against Skyridge during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber players Jonathan McKinney, left, and Colby Lee, right, bracket Skyridge forward Nicholas Saunders (4) during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Weber fullback Garrett Otto rears back for a throw-in against Skyridge during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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Skyridge goalkeeper Cole Barker dives as a Weber kick sails into the goal during the 6A boys soccer state championship match Friday, May 28, 2021, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

SANDY — Weber High boys soccer had trailed in a game just one time and for all of seven minutes this season heading into its 19th game of the schedule, the 6A state championship game against Skyridge on Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The Falcons struck first, the Warriors trailed at halftime for the first time all season and trailed for about 23 minutes in total, their final test in a grueling season where they’ve passed all of them.

“Heads up,” senior defender and captain Preston Larson said of the halftime message to the team.

For the second time in as many complete seasons, Weber lifted the 6A boys soccer state championship trophy, playing Skyridge to a 1-1 tie in regulation, then winning a topsy turvy penalty shootout 4-3 where the final kick went over Weber goalkeeper Stockton Short’s head and bounced off the crossbar.

It sparked a wild celebration by the team, which had accumulated the nerves of 100 minutes of essentially deadlocked soccer in a game that marked the first time Weber had been pushed to extra time all year.

The players sprinted to meet Short in front of the Weber supporters section, then celebrated with the championship trophy several times in front of the crowd.

“It’s just pure joy. All that hard work paid off, man,” Short said. “I mean, it feels awesome. There’s no other way we want to send the seniors out.”

In 2019, the Warriors were the third-place team in Region 1 and reeled off four straight upset wins en route to a 1-0 win against Copper Hills in the state title game.

This year, Weber (19-0) was unbeaten, had the best defense in the state and had the top seed in the playoffs, which drew considerable attention and a target on the Warriors’ back that they ended up dealing with just fine.

“Emotional, obviously, but we worked hard all season. We believed in the boys and they believed in us. They bought into what we wanted and they did it, they accomplished it, so I’m so proud of them,” Weber head coach Jan Swift said.

Earlier Friday before the team left the school for Rio Tinto Stadium, Swift said he gathered the team and told them that the state championship game would be his last as Weber head coach.

It was an emotional moment for him and the team, which he and Larson expressed after a win that had all the stress and tension expected of a state title game that went to penalties.

“Wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way,” Larson said.

The Falcons led the penalty shootout 3-2 after Skyridge keeper Cole Barker had saved Quayd Berry’s spot kick.

Barker had actually saved the first Weber kick, taken by Carson Karras, but the side official ruled Barker went off his line too early, ruled for a re-kick and Karras made his second chance.

Short saved Skyridge’s fourth penalty kick to level the shootout score at 3-3 after Collin Jones made his penalty.

Then Raul Rojas stepped up and fired in a low PK for what was eventually Weber’s winning kick.

The Weber fans and players directed “MVP!” chants to Short after the game, which wouldn’t have been a state title game without presenting obstacles that the Warriors hadn’t dealt with this year.

Skyridge took the lead as Jacob Jensen hit a blazing shot that rocketed in off the underside of the crossbar from just outside the penalty box in the 17th minute.

Weber had trailed only once in a game before, that to Northridge on April 27 for six minutes of the first half. This time, it was 23 minutes.

“It was stressful, it was scary, but you’re not going to come back if you have zero confidence. The boys picked their heads up and we just came right back at them,” Short said.

But right after the halftime restart, Collin Jones’ cross was met by a Skyridge defender, who headed into his own goal and made for a 1-1 tie game that lasted the rest of regulation and the two periods of added extra time.

“We never give up,” Swift said. “They never have in training and games, they never give up and you could see that. We played hard until the very end, until the final whistle.”

MAKING HISTORY

This season was already going to be noteworthy for being played in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. For pure soccer reasons, the 2021 Weber boys soccer team will be all over the record books.

The Warriors finished the season with a perfect 19-0 record and they’re the first public school to finish a boys soccer season unbeaten since Wasatch went 20-0 in 2013.

Weber’s defense conceded just three goals all season, breaking the previous state record of five goals allowed in a season that four teams achieved (Bonneville, Davis, Brighton and Juan Diego).

The Warriors are also the first team to win back-to-back titles in Utah’s highest classification since Brighton won two straight from 2008-09.

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