DRAPER — Ben Pobanz scored the first goal of Weber High’s state soccer semifinal Tuesday against Pleasant Grove just two minutes after the second half started.
His Warriors teammates rapturously celebrated on the sideline at Juan Diego High School. So did the strong contingent of traveling Weber fans who sat in the cold, rainy, windy conditions.
So did many parents and students 47 miles away at the Dee Events Center, where updates of the soccer game were announced while WHS’s graduation ceremony was happening.
The scheduling conflict upset many parents and even created a situation where one parent went to graduation and the other went to the soccer game.
This Thursday, there’s no graduation. But there’s one more soccer game.
Weber’s inspired run in the 6A boys soccer state playoffs continued with a shocking 3-1 win over top-seeded PG, the defending 6A state champions, booking the Warriors a spot in Thursday night’s 6A state title game at Rio Tinto Stadium against Copper Hills.
“Honestly, I’m speechless. It’s crazy beating the previous state champs 3-1 like that,” Weber forward Josh Maughan said. “We kind of struggled in the middle of the season, but we pulled through it. We’re a better team from it.”
The third-seeded Warriors have won each playoff game on the road after doing so in their final two regular-season games. That came after a run of three-straight losses in the middle of the season that torpedoed their region title hopes.
“We’re excited because we’re not done,” head coach Jan Swift said. “They’re playing the game how we want them to play: possession, move it quickly, they picked up the vision and they’re playing great.”
Midfielder Austin Allen tested PG’s goalkeeper Chris Jenkinson in the ninth minute with a fizzing, low shot that Jenkinson did well to kick save. The next 30 minutes consisted of teams trading possession in the midfield with not a lot of concrete chances.
Swift usually notes how Weber tends to be on the unlucky side of the goal. The Warriors are often a team that takes dozens of shots on goal to little or no avail.
Tuesday was radically different. In a space of 12 minutes early in the second half, Weber scored all three of its goals from close range, finally finding the finishing touch that so often eludes the team.
“Finally we had a few go our way. It’s nice to be on the other side for a change,” Swift said, laughing.
The Warriors had most of the possession in the first half going against the wind. With the wind at their backs in the second half, Pobanz latched on to a pass, ran through the defense and shot hard past Jenkinson for the game’s first goal in the 42nd minute from just inside the penalty box.
In the 47th minute, sophomore Jake Youngberg got in behind the Vikings’ defense for a one-on-one chance and calmly slotted in the second goal for a 2-0 lead.
Then PG got a lifeline. Pobanz was issued a red card in the 51st minute after picking a second yellow card, meaning he will miss Thursday’s title game.
Maybe three minutes later, that advantage was nullified when Maughan — like Youngberg — got in behind the defense and scored a shorthanded goal for the Warriors with a low shot on a one-on-one opportunity.
Game. Set. Match.
“We’re finally playing our position, we’re spreading the field, we’re letting the ball work for us, we’re communicating, we’re dictating the game and making it our game,” Maughan said. “We’re getting goals because of it.”
Despite the overwhelming odds, PG still threatened to make its personnel advantage count. A shot from a Vikings’ corner kick skipped right past the post in the 70th minute.
Weber goalkeeper Charles Wheelwright had to save shots in the 72nd and 73rd minutes. Ultimately, it was nothing doing for PG despite the Vikings scoring with three minutes left.
“It just feels awesome to finally make it to the state finals,” Allen said. “I think really it comes down to our team just wants it more than anyone else. We’ve been working so hard in practice.”
Weber won its school’s lone boys state soccer championship in 2004.
The Warriors’ opponent in Thursday’s championship game, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium, is Copper Hills, which has never won a state title but has won all of its playoff games this season 2-1 in extra time.
For the past three seasons, Weber’s playoff runs have all ended at home in the first two rounds. This year, the Warriors have played all three games on the road. All three have ended with happy bus rides back to Pleasant View.