I knew all year this could be a special season, and they are showing that. —Herriman head coach Ryan Mitchell
HERRIMAN — The defending champs were not going down easy. If the Herriman Mustangs didn’t know that before their quarterfinal match against the Viewmont Vikings, they were certainly aware after a brutal 80 minutes of play. Through regulation, the two sides played to a 1-1 draw, a score that fails to do justice to the effort by both sides.
As the first overtime began, it appeared not much had changed.
Herriman and forward Ethan Alexander had other plans, however.
Somehow the senior navigated his way through one of the stingiest defenses in 5A, received an on-point pass from teammate Isaac Chance and finished off the run with the game-winning goal as the Mustangs claimed a 2-1 victory and a berth in the semifinals.
“Whew!” an out-of-breath Alexander exclaimed. “Isaac gave me a really good ball, I just hit it. I practice (that shot) all the time. It was a good opportunity, and I loved it.”
“I have fantastic players, just outstanding boys,” added Herriman head coach Ryan Mitchell. “They have good soccer IQs and outstanding mental toughness. I knew all year this could be a special season, and they are showing that.”
Herriman needed not only mental toughness but physical toughness to prevail Friday afternoon. The visiting Vikings came out on a mission, determined to make it back to Rio Tinto.
“They really wanted to put us in the ground,” said Alexander. “They were the defending champs and we were the underdogs.”
“I told the boys before the game that (Viewmont) was going to go hard for about 15 minutes,” added Mitchell. “That’s their style.”
Despite the initial push by Viewmont, it was the Mustangs who drew first blood.
Less than two minutes into the contest, Herriman was awarded a free kick just outside the box. Midfielder Carter Johnson calmly stepped up to take the kick, and subsequently sent it barreling into the top right side of the net.
The Viewmont response was immediate. Senior Drake Cook had multiple shots at the goal, but it wasn’t until midway through that half that he made good.
Cook knotted the game at 1 goal apiece around the 19-minute mark when he converted a Viewmont penalty kick.
Moments later, Cook had the opportunity to give the Vikings the lead, but Herriman goalkeeper J.D. Myers made an incredible stop in what turned out to be the save of the game.
That play in particular seemed to signify the end of the Viking blitzkrieg, and slowly the Mustangs began to establish control of the contest.
“We kept the field big and moved the ball around, which let us control possession the majority of the game,” said Mitchell. “You could see towards the end of regulation and into overtime (Viewmont) just ran out of gas. Their legs were gone.”
Despite their fatigue, the Viking defense held firm, stymying multiple Mustang runs. That is until the final one.
“Both teams really wanted to win,” said Alexander. “It made it fun.”