OGDEN — It was 90-something degrees at 5 p.m. on a late July day as the Ogden High girls soccer team neared the end of its practice.
Ninety-something degrees in the air, and probably 100-plus on the artificial turf at the Spence Eccles Ogden Community Sports Complex.
After an hour-and-a-half of running around, Tigers midfielder Alysia Butters still had the wits about her to pass the ball from the midfield past a defender’s leg and to a point just near the edge of the penalty box.
To the untrained eye, it’s a pass to nobody. To the soccer-trained eye, it was the perfect through pass for forward Kadrey Howell. Howell caught up to the ball in stride, took a couple dribbles and scored from close range.
“Those two,” head coach Skylar Stam said. “Once they get on the same page, it’s extremely dangerous.”
The Tigers benefitted from that combination loads of times last season. Butters scored seven goals with 11 assists from a center attacking midfield spot where, most of the time, she’s the engine that makes the Tigers go.
It’s her technical ability that impresses Stam the most.
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a player at Ogden High that has the ability to play the balls that she does, left and right-footed in the air or on the ground the way that she can — boys or girls,” Stam said about Butters.
Butters’ nickname on the team is “LeLe,” which came about when she was very young and her older sister couldn’t pronounce “uh-LEE-see-uh” and settled on “LeLe.”
“She’s very good with the ball, she can hold on to it, she gets around people pretty easily and she has such a good eye she can play me the perfect ball,” Howell said of Butters.
Howell, sporting silver-ish hair, scored 21 goals with four assists and estimated she’d have about half as much if not for Butters.
She had a four-goal game and five multi-goal games, scoring those 21 goals in 12 matches.
“She’s not happy unless she scores, it’s something that — it’s a fire she’s got and no one’s going to get in her way,” Stam said.
Most of the goals came in the box once Howell, who Stam noted is very fast, races past a defender and latches on to a pass.
“Every time she’s in front of the goal, nine out of 10 times she’ll score,” Butters said.
Like last season, Ogden will lean on Howell and Butters, who spearhead a strong team with several returning starters that appears poised to compete for the Region 10 title.
And maybe the Tigers could do more than a region title if everything clicks.
“I think we’re going to do a lot better this year than last year, for sure,” Butters said. “All of our main players and positions are filled from last year so we’re all familiar with each other.
“I think we’ll go far in (the) state (tournament), hopefully win it.”
The path to win some hardware is clear for the Tigers. Not only is more than half the team back, but the top two teams in last year’s 4A Region 11 were Bonneville and Park City, who are both now in 5A.
The 4A classification is also a bit diluted this year thanks to the most-recent realignment that sent a handful of Utah County schools up to 5A as well.
The likely title favorites are still probably the big schools in Cache Valley, plus the talented schools in St. George, namely defending champion Snow Canyon.
But both Howell and Butters believe the Tigers can be in with more than a shout.