Heber City • Cody Cowley was on the bench last May when the Dixie Flyers bounced his Wasatch Wasps from the boys' soccer state tournament in the Class 3A semifinals. He was a junior keeper who dreamed of eventually having a shot between the pipes.
"It was devastating," Cowley said, "and I didn't want to go through that again."
Cody Cowley wrote his name into Wasatch lore and made sure he wouldn't have to Saturday afternoon. With the crowd cheering his name, Cowley stopped back-to-back Dixie penalty kicks, leading his Wasps to a heart-stopping 4-2 penalty kick win in the 3A quarterfinals.
It was, as Wasatch coach Dawain Wheatley could best describe afterward, "gut-wrenching."
Which makes perfect sense. During Wheatley's three-decade tenure at the helm, penalty kicks spell out nightmare. The Wasps lost on penalty kicks in the 2002 3A state championship game. Ditto for the first round in 2004 and the semifinals in 2006.
"PKs have been one of Wasatch's most horrific experiences ever," Wheatley said.
So when the Wasps squandered a 3-1 lead with two second-half goals to the Flyers, history was against them. Dixie captured the momentum in the second half after Wasatch dominated the first half with first-class finishes from Domey Espinoza, who curled in a free kick into the upper 90, and Hunter Ketterer, who snapped a header to the far post off a corner kick.
Then things went south for the Wasps.
Dixie knotted it up 3-3 with eight minutes left.
"When they scored that third goal," said Espinoza, who finished with two goals, "reality hit me that we can be beat."
But Wasatch pressed in the overtime periods. Espinoza rocketed a shot off the post and sailed a few more golden opportunities. Wheatley even went to star Alex Espinoza, who was battling a lower leg injury, for a few minutes at the end of the first overtime period.
Once the official blew the whistle signifying full time, Domey Espinoza said he began to well up. The perfect senior year suddenly hung in the balance on the feet of team leaders and the reflexes of Cowley.
"These guys," Cowley said pointing to each of his teammates, "they deserve to move on more than anyone."
Domey Espinoza buried his penalty. Senior Cesar Vargas followed.
Then Cowley made his first diving stop to his right stuffed.
Ketterer finished his calmly.
Cowley dived to his right again blocked.
Senior winger Austin Broadhead sealed it, curving his shot into the side netting, keeping the Wasps' season alive and unblemished at 18-0 as the fans went berserk. Wasatch now marches onto the 3A semifinals for the fourth consecutive year, where it'll face Ogden at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Jordan High School.
"We've had so much riding on this season," Cowley said. "We've had so many dreams, and I wasn't going to let them fall."
Storylines PKs: Wasatch 4, Dixie 2
R Wasatch overcomes its struggles with penalty kicks for the quarterfinal win.