Sandy • Jesse Blais held a white envelope high in the sky over his head as he walked back toward his roaring fans. There the coach stood, a former Park City player and state champion, having made good on his promise to lead his alma mater back among the Class 3A elite.
The envelope read: "3A finalists."
That's where the Park City Miners are now after defeating Desert Hills 2-1 at Jordan High School on Friday afternoon to head to Rio Tinto Stadium to vie for a crown Saturday.
And the ride hasn't been smooth. In fact, it's been filled with turbulence.
The Miners lost their last two regular-season region games and went into the playoffs with no momentum. But they made their own luck. They scored an overtime goal in Ogden to beat Ben Lomond. They survived a penalty kick heart-stopper against Cedar City and now, moved past the Region 9 champion Thunder.
"It's been a great experience," senior captain Alejandro Vieyra said. "We've prepared for this, practiced hard every day and the results paid off."
A fast start sent the Miners back to Sandy on Saturday.
Senior forward Carl Turner struck a 30-yard laser to the far post in the eighth minute.
"I just hoped for the best," he said.
Turner's aggressiveness in the box seven minutes later earned a penalty kick, which junior midfielder Will McFarlane tucked in with ease to give Park City a 2-0 lead.
The Miners possessed and quelled Desert Hills attacks from there. After Thunder forward Justin Brinkerhoff pulled one back for his team with 16 minutes remaining, the Miners had to protect their lead.
"To tell you the truth," Blais said, "I didn't know if we would get this far, but they're a talented group who are very passionate, and when those two things are added together, you win games."
At the end of the regular season, the players called a players-only meeting, Turner said, making sure the team would make good on this year. Vieyra said previous teams have had the talent, but not the want or desire to extend the season.
"We're here," he said.
Actually, the Miners are headed to Rio Tinto Stadium, waiting for their opportunity to write the final chapter of their 2013 story.
"We just wanted to stay together," Turner said, "and keep on fighting."