Double overtime in the playoffs — it’s the kind of stage when senior leadership tends to stand out.
But Box Elder wouldn’t trade the most seasoned of starters for freshman Trevan Watson, whose left foot ended up toppling one of the state’s toughest soccer powers.
Watson’s golden goal in the 93rd minute put the Bees (14-3-1) into the state semifinals for the first time since 2002. His teammates raised him onto their shoulders and jumped and shouted together, resembling a great purple sea, as they celebrated the 3-2 win over East (16-2-0), which hadn’t allowed three goals all year.
After being knocked off axis initially, Box Elder went on an aggressive streak to close out the biggest surprise of the 4A boys’ soccer tournament to date. Entering as one of the favorites to win a title, the Leopards were outplayed on their home field.
“We knew if we brought the right mentality, it could be anyone’s game,” Box Elder coach Nate Bywater said. “It’s the playoffs. We’ve worked our butts off, so we should leave it on the field. It’s not worth anything on the bus.”
Watson scored twice for the eventual victors, getting the second goal shortly after the start of the second overtime. The ball ricocheted in the box off the hands of East keeper Jack Thompson, and Watson cleaned it up with ease.
Nearly 40 minutes before, he had scored a go-ahead goal with a 20-yarder from the wing, a screamer right over Thompson’s head.
“I was just thinking, ‘Get the ball to my left foot, it’s stronger,’” he said. “‘Get the ball to my left and just shoot it.’”
As East struggled to contend with the Bees’ freshman scorer, so did Box Elder struggle with Hugo Olivera. The sophomore midfielder scored twice, the first a long shot from midfield in the ninth minute that caught the Bees off-guard.
In the second half, Olivera knocked in an equalizer, juking right then squeezing a shot into the left corner of the goal.
But from the first goal on, Box Elder seemed the more aggressive team, taking more shots on goal and challenging East’s half of the pitch. The visitors first struck on a cross by Preston Faerber within the final two minutes of the first half.
The Bees felt they had their third goal in regulation, as one of their headers bounced along the goal line before Thompson swatted it away. Thompson also had another strong save late in the second half, deflecting a rocket from 10 yards out over the crossbar.
But Box Elder couldn’t be denied its entry into the semifinals, Bywater’s first berth their in three tries as a head coach.
“It’s huge for our program, because we come from a smaller market,” he said. “To be able to take these guys here with their talent and their abilities and to put them like powerhouses like East, and say, ‘Hey, we may not win them all, but we’re certainly going to give you a competition.’ I mean that’s what it’s about.”
Box Elder 3, East 2 (2 OT)
R Freshman Trevan Watson scores twice, including the game winner.
• The Bees reach the 4A semifinals for the first time since 2002.
4A soccer schedule
• Maple Mountain 2, Cyprus 1 (OT)
• Logan 1, Murray 1 (Logan 5-4 PKs)
• Box Elder 3, East 2 (2OT)
• Skyline 3, Salem Hills 1
At Woods Cross High School
• Maple Mountain vs. Logan, 11:30 a.m.
• Box Elder vs. Skyline, 1:45 p.m.
At Rio Tinto Stadium
• Semifinal winners, 4:30 p.m.