Sandy • No one believed in them. No one thought they had what it took to make a deep run in the 6A boys’ soccer state tournament.
No one but them.
The Weber Warriors dug in Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium and grinded out a 1-0 victory over the Copper Hills Grizzlies to win the 6A championship. It was Weber’s first championship in boys’ soccer since 2004.
“It’s everything,” junior Luke Johnson said when asked what it meant to win the title. “Everyone thought we wouldn’t even win the first game. But we’re together. This is our team. Weber is back.”
Senior fullback Kolton Obray provided the game-winning goal with 25 minutes remaining in the second half off Johnson’s free kick into the box. Obray skied to the ball, got his head on it and directed it into the back of the net. The crowd erupted in cheers.
Johnson said there have been “millions of times” in his years playing soccer that a cross has amounted to nothing. But he picked a good time for that pass to lead to the most meaningful of somethings.
“I just whipped it in hoping someone was there,” Johnson said. “Kolton connected and it was amazing. I was shocked. I didn’t even have words.”
The game went scoreless through the first half and much of the second. Neither team got many quality chances at goal until about the final 25 minutes of the game.
Weber coach Jan Swift said he spoke to his team at halftime and advised them to settle down after a mostly hectic first half for both sides.
“When we did that, we controlled the tempo,” Swift said.
After Obray broke the seal on the game, Copper Hills came back with a vengeance with test after test of Weber’s junior goalkeeper Charles Wheelright. He had the bulk of his saves in the second half, including one in the final moments of the game when he instinctually blocked a ball shot at him from less than 6 yards away.
“I was like, ‘Hell yeah,' " Wheelright said of his reaction when he made his final save.
Obray affectionately called Wheelright an “animal” and praised the keeper’s leadership abilities. Swift characterized his goalkeeper’s performance as “phenomenal.”
“I had to come ready,” Wheelright said. “I knew that my team was going to need me at some point.”
From Wheelright’s vantage point, he knew as soon as the ball bounced off Obray’s head that it was going in. It was the lift the Warriors needed after playing strong defense all night long up until that point, he said.
“That totally lifted a lot of weight off our shoulders,” Wheelright said. “Of course they (Copper Hills) were pissed and they came right at us. We were able to stay composed and get the shutout and get the win.”