Tuesday evening’s boys soccer matchup between top-seeded Layton Christian Academy and the Judge Memorial Bulldogs had all of the drama of a championship – one day early.
Finally, the Eagles rallied from a 1-0 deficit with a goal with 3:40 left, and then outlasted the Bulldogs in penalty kicks to claim the win and give coach Lucas Almeido a chance to earn a 3A state title in his first year.
After the game finished tied, and the two teams were scoreless in a pair of 10-minute overtime periods, Enzo Jaques, Thiago Dalpian, Marcelo Marais and Danilo Obradovic scored in the shootout, and goalkeeper Palacio Guilherme allowed just one Judge goal in three tries to secure the win.
“Once we finished this, we knew we would have to do it again tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Almeido, a junior college coach in Virginia last year who was recruited to Utah and has guided the Eagles to a 16-3 record so far.
With the win, Layton Christian advanced to play Real Salt Lake Academy, which defeated Morgan 3-1 in the doubleheader nightcap played at Jordan High School. Not surprisingly, the title contest will between the top teams in the RPI rankings. It will be the first battle between the squads this year. Real Salt Lake Academy is the defending champion.
For a while, it looked like Judge would get a chance to reach the final. The Bulldogs held Layton Christian scoreless in the first half, and then took a 1-0 lead when sophomore Nahuel Bahalla found the net. Judge then held off several Layton Christian scoring attempts, and seemed to have the momentum.
“Our boys kept pushing until it was our time to go score some points,” said Almeido, who team was one of the highest-scoring squads in 3A, averaging nearly four goals per game.
When regulation and overtimes ended, Almedo selected Jaques to take the first penalty kick, and Jacques showed poise and confidence in snapping the ball into the net. Guilherme allowed Judge’s Evan Nelson to tie, but Judge’s next shot sailed wide and Guilherme blocked the final attempt.
When Obradovic scored on LCA’s next shot, the win was clinched and the Eagles came together in jubilation that didn’t end until the bus departed the school grounds nearly 30 minutes later.
Real Salt Lake 3, Morgan 1
Karl Weisenfeld scored two second-half goals, and that was the difference as the Griffins turned away Morgan in another heated 3A semifinal that featured a flurry of hot-tempered kids and yellow cards in the final minutes.
RSL had dominated its last three opponents – scoring an amazing 23 goals – but Morgan’s physical play kept the game close. Jesus Cruz finally gave RSL the lead, but Morgan tied it just before halftime. Even with their defensive style, though, the Trojans couldn’t sneak another shot past RSL goalkeeper Luke Paramoure, who earned his ninth shutout of the season.
Weisenfeld’s second goal — on a penalty kick — was the clincher in the final few minutes, and both teams developed short tempers as they realized their seasons were headed in different directions. Fortunately, no lasting penalties occurred.