Sandy • Tuesday's region opener between Murray and Skyline was more than a showdown between two Region 7 teams it was a chance to play where the pros play.
Both teams came into Rio Tinto Stadium with dreams of playing like their heroes on Real Salt Lake, but the Spartans came away with the victory, shutting out the Eagles 2-0.
Juniors Eli Dahir and Andrew Clayton knew playing at Rio Tinto was more than an opportunity to share the pitch with Salt Lake's professional team. It was the first step toward making state this year.
With a preseason record of 2-2-1, Dahir felt that playing against the best would prepare the Spartans for the upcoming season. "We scheduled a hard preseason so we could roll on harder teams," he said.
Murray struck first in the 13th minute of the match with a left-footed strike from senior Jared Jess.
"I was able to drop it right in the corner," Jess said. "I never felt so happy in my entire life."
Murray coach Bryan DeMann said he knew that passing would be the difference. The team that could control the nearly square pitch would come away with the victory.
And Skyline's physical play was no contest for Murray's crisp passing and spacing.
"It is important to remember your assignments and do what they have been taught to do," DeMann said. "Don't embarrass the field by playing it small."
The field at Rio Tinto is 75 yards wide, a full 15 yards wider than most high school pitches.
The Spartans pressure on the ball was relentless. Any remaining butterflies from playing at the professional stadium were gone as Murray swarmed on Skyline in all stages of the game.
Murray's domination of the ball opened up the second score of the game as Dahir was able to connect with Clayton in the 76th minute to put the game away.
"After he passed it up to me, the field really opened up for me and I was able to dribble it past their goalie," Clayton said.
Goalkeeper senior Spencer Critchfield attributed his shutout to his fullbacks.
"Skyline has to come through my defenders before they get to me," Critchfield said. "My guys did a great job stopping them on the field."
Murray 2, Skyline 0
R Murray dominates on corner kicks, earning 12 to Skyline's 1.
• Skyline goalkeeper junior Steve Floor stops 14 of 16 shots on goal.
• Murray and Skyline are able to sell more than 1,500 vouchers for the game, raising almost $7,500 for both teams.