SANDY — Someone from Region 9 is going to the 3A State Championship game, that much we know.
Pine View (11-7-1) and Snow Canyon (15-4-0) square off in tonight’s 6:15 semifinal at Alta High School, with the winner advancing to the 3A title game at 1:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. The two southern Utah rivals know each other all too well and the winner may meet another familiar foe — Dixie (13-3-3) plays Juan Diego (13-2-1) in the other semi at 4 p.m. today. The Flyers finished ahead of the Panthers and Warriors to win the region, but the teams are very close in skill level.
“Our region prepares us for these postseason games,” Dixie coach Burt Myers said. “A lot of the other regions have weaker teams and so they can get a little lackadaisical. We’re looking forward to this. Snow Canyon and Pine View are two high-quality teams and Juan Diego is probably the top team in the state right now.”
Dixie had a pretty easy time of it in the first two rounds of state, beating Union 9-1 in the first game and downing Ben Lomond 8-0 last Saturday in the quarterfinals. The Flyers have lost just once in their last 13 matches — but that loss was a 2-1 decision at home against Pine View.
The Panthers were just 2-3 the last couple weeks of the season, but then got two playoff wins, defeating Park City 4-2 and grabbing a 3-1 victory at Stansbury.
The Warriors, who split with Pine View this season, got two road playoff victories to advance to the semifinals. They beat Uintah 3-0 and edged Payson 1-0.
There are some interesting stories leading into these semis, including a pair of cousins going head-to-head and some Dixie players looking for more jewelry.
In the SC-PV game Warrior defenseman Elijah Wade and Panther forward Michael Wade are a pair of cousins who have grown up as soccer friends, not foes.
Elijah’s dad, Mark, said both boys struggled in their early years of playing the sport that they love.
“Nine years ago, both Eli and Michael found themselves sitting mostly on the bench with their youth club soccer team,” he said. “Neither boy was large in stature, particularly fast, nor very skilled, and their club soccer coach offered them very few minutes in games.”
Wade said they decided to form their own club team — the Bombers — to give the boys, and others like them and opportunity to play more minutes and develop their skills.
“This team was inexperienced, the boys unskilled, and for the first couple of years of their existence they were pummeled by the leagues better teams — defeats of 8-0 were not uncommon,” Wade said. But after a few years of taking their lumps, Wade said the team “began to be competitive within their league.”
Eventually this group of former bench warmers won the club league championships and finished at, or near the top, of several major tournaments.
The two cousins played through eight seasons of club ball together, but when high school soccer came to the forefront, Elijah and Michael had to part ways. Elijah was in Snow Canyon territory and Michael was going to be a Panther. And with Michael playing forward and Elijah playing on the back row, they have literally gone head-to-head in their high school matches the past few years.
This season, Michael scored a goal in Pine View’s win in March, while Elijah’s defense pitched a shutout in Snow Canyon’s win in April.
Tonight, the two seniors will square off one last time on the high school soccer pitch. Whichever team wins, there’s no doubt one cousin will be rooting for the other in Saturday’s championship at Rio Tinto.
One for the thumb
Dixie is the defending state champion in 3A soccer and, in fact, the Flyers have won two of the last three 3A titles. A third ring is on the line as Dixie tries to get past No. 1-ranked Juan Diego and then a region foe in the finals this weekend. But there are three players on Dixie’s squad who are looking for their fifth state championship ring.
McLane Keenan, Konner Aitken and Chris Hall have all been part of Dixie’s two recent football championships as well. The three seniors, all of whom have scored at least one goal and one touchdown as Flyers, hope to add a fifth championship ring for their thumbs.
“We’ve been really fortunate,” Keenan said. “We have been on some great teams. Hopefully we can get past Juan Diego and have a chance to get another state championship.”
Dixie has 15 seniors on this year’s team, including injured Alex Green, who had 30 career goals before this season, but only two in 2015 due to nagging injuries.
The Flyers have their hands full in a Juan Diego team that has just two losses all season, the last one coming Mar. 18 against 5A Alta.
“It’s going to be a barn burner,” Dixie coach Burt Myers said. “It always is with Juan Diego. They have great coaching, great athletes and play good soccer. We try to emulate their program. Hopefully we’ll be with them. They are probably the top team in the state right now, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Dixie beat Juan Diego 1-0 in last year’s semifinals, also played at Alta High School.
Pine View’s last state championship was in 2007 under head coach Mark Cottle. The Panthers lost in the semis 4-1 to Cedar last season.
The Warriors were ousted in the quarterfinals at Juan Diego, 3-1, last year. Snow Canyon has never won a boys state soccer championship.
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