4A boys' soccer: East advances to state semis despite slow start
Rudy Schenk looked at his players and offered one final message before he sent them out for what he hoped would not be their last game.
"Remember," he said, "the pain of last year."
Even for this year's version of the East Leopards, who replaced 16 seniors after the 2012 team lost in a shootout to Springville in the first round of the Class 4A tournament, the idea was clear.
There would be no forgetting. There were constant reminders. The Leopards once again were challenged by a lower-seeded team from Region 8, this time Timpanogos. Despite struggling offensively all day, the Leopards broke through in the second half to win 2-0 in the Class 4A state quarterfinals Friday.
The win gives East its first semifinal appearance since 2006 the year it won its only state title.
The Leopards will face Orem, the No. 1 seed from Region 8, on Tuesday after the Tigers dispatched defending champion Olympus on Friday.
Senior Abdi Iftin broke the game-long stalemate when he found the edge and managed to get a shot past Timpanogos' charging goalkeeper at a sharp angle and grab the far corner of the net.
As one of the half-dozen players who saw significant action last year, he later said it was a thrill to score the go-ahead goal in his final game at home.
"But we're not just doing it because we're seniors," Iftin said. "We're doing it for East."
East's leading scorer, senior Landen Carlsen, scored on a penalty kick minutes later after junior teammate James Gessel was knocked to the ground in the box.
East was outpaced all day by Timpanogos forward David Enciso, but it were helped by aggressive play from goalkeeper Phillip Padilla for the second consecutive playoff game. Three saves in the first half allowed East to regroup at halftime, and Schenk said, "reset and talk about things and get the guys to settle down."
"Soccer's a funny game," Schenk said. "You can play really well, but if you can't score boom. Fortunately, he saved us."
At Woods Cross H.S.
Orem vs. East, 4:15 p.m.
Bountiful vs. Murray, TBD