Sandy • The lights didn’t come at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday evening.
They didn’t need to. They didn’t need to because the Bountiful Braves played their best game of the season when it mattered most. In the Class 4A state title game, Bountiful’s impressive and rare conglomerate of players and styles melded together in a 2-0 win over Orem.
Storylines Bountiful 2, Orem 0Alex Simpson scores the first goal for the Braves, who also get a penalty-kick goal from captain Cesar Duenas.
The lights stayed off, and once the clock ran dry, the Braves, clad in all black, sprinted to the south goal and mobbed under a nearly full moon.
"This was for all intents and purposes their best performance of the season," Bountiful coach Lou Plank said.
The Braves played their first game at Rio Tinto fast, furiously and with a twinge of flair. Senior defender Bryce Carey lined up for a free kick and sent a fast cross toward the mouth of the goal a few minutes before halftime.
Sophomore forward Alex Simpson was unmarked, and he knew it.
He flicked the ball to the far post through a sea of Orem defenders and onrushing Braves to give Bountiful an early lead. Senior captain Cesar Duenas finished a penalty kick in the second half, and the Braves pressed on from there.
They weren’t going to sit back. Kind of like its season as a whole, Bountiful went after it when they saw the finish line right in front of them.
"In the graph of things, it was always climbing," Plank said. "Every performance was better than the last."
It’ll be hard to top Thursday’s win.
And Rylee Gautavai knows it.
As a senior football star headed to BYU on a football scholarship, Gautavai played soccer growing up, but he stopped when the gridiron took precedent. He wanted a chance to stay in shape for college football and wanted a shot to play soccer one last time.
The imposing linebacker-turned-sweeper frolicked with his teammates and howled with the zealous Bountiful student section when he realized his name would be written with a state title.
"What a way to go out," he said.
That could be the special part of this season’s Braves team. It had a small and shifty sophomore forward score the goal of the year and a bruising center back playing alongside a plethora of talent in the midfield. Then there was a defense that kept the Tiger attack at bay throughout Thursday night’s championship match.
They had it all.
"That aggression comes from wanting to do best for your partner," Gautavai said. "You want to do your best for them."
Plank summed it up best.
"They peaked," he said, "just perfectly."Next Page >
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