Murray • Future Spartans sat on the hill at Murray Park, donning Spartans helmets and orange youth soccer club jerseys watching the home team effortlessly pass the ball around the pitch.
When Murray winger Clay Powell scored the team’s first goal in the waning seconds of the first half Wednesday, the youngsters sprinted around the bottom of the hill waving the orange-and-white checkered flags in celebration.
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The possession-based attack the Spartans employed is so effective that, at times, the team can make the fan base beg for more shots on goal. It didn’t matter. Murray moved past Springville 2-0 in its first-round Class 4A boys’ soccer matchup to advance to the quarterfinals Friday at home.
"That’s what our goal is: we come out here to possess and tire the other team out," Powell said.
His first-half goal wasn’t pretty nor was it the most impressive or dangerous chance he created Wednesday, but the Murray midfielder certainly will take it. When fellow senior Andrew Clayton dropped a ball over the top of the Red Devil defense, it was Powell and a defender set to clash for the ball in the box.
It took a quick roll, and Powell was able to get a foot on it before he collided with the defender and Springville keeper Trevor Garn. The ball rolled in.
"It was just kind of really lucky," Powell said. "I just went hard after the ball to try and win it."
It was all Murray once the second half commenced.
The Spartans found the open man and flew toward the Springville goal. They earned four corner kicks in a five-minute span, but a shot or header rolled wide or over the crossbar each time.
"We kind of panic," senior captain Jeff Hunter said. "We have to find that final pass and thread it through."
Hunter did that late in the second half, slipping a ball to sophomore Sean Speirs, who calmly finished, ensuring the Spartans’ spot in the 4A quarterfinals.
Murray coach Bryan DeMann applauded the play and the finish, but he pointed to goalkeeper Tanner Critchfield, who kept the Red Devils off the scoresheet when it mattered most. Springville forward Cole Bertelsen wiggled free in the box and snapped a header to the near post, but Critchfield was there.
"It’s a whole lot nicer when you don’t have to deal with the ball down there," DeMann said. "Possession and organization helps with that."
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