BY SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
SANDY — The Bountiful Braves boys’ soccer team had to claw their way into the 4A soccer finals, winning a 5-4 shootout over Murray just days before.
That win, however, propelled them to play the best soccer game of the year, said Braves coach Lou Plank. The Braves won their first 4A boys’ soccer title since 2008 when they beat the Orem Tigers 2-0.
“It feels real good to be here,” said Plank. “We worked so hard to get here, and to beat a team like Orem in order to win feels pretty good.”
A dominant game from start to finish, Bountiful came out on the attack from the beginning, getting more opportunities to score than Orem.
Bountiful’s early attack didn’t pay off at first, but the Braves added a first half goal on a set piece by Bryce Carey to Alex Simpson for the 1-0 lead.
It wasn’t exactly how Plank drew up the game plan, but the early goal that set the team up for a dominant second half.
“We wanted to get that first goal in the first 20 minutes of the half,” he said. “We didn’t do that, but having that first half goal was still important to what we wanted to accomplish as a team.”
Simpson, who scored the goal amid a sea of chaos, said the free kick from Carey was “just how they practiced it,” and the ball just happened to find him as the open man at the other end.
“It was a great kick by Bryce,” Simpson said. “I was just there on the other end and found the net. It was really important for us to get ahead, and our coach made sure that we stayed ahead through the match.”
The score held up through the first half, but Bountiful stayed on the aggressive when the second half started, netting the second goal within the first 10 minutes to take a 2-0 lead.
On the goal, Cesar Duenas was fouled inside the penalty area and was awarded a penalty kick. Duenas scored for the 2-0 lead, which held up through the rest of the game.
“It’s something that we practice every day,” he said. “It was a lot of pressure, but I knew I had to put it in for my teammates.”
Bountiful didn’t rest with the 2-0 lead, either. The Braves gave themselves plenty of chances to score in the second half, and pushed back with defense to hold Orem to very few scoring opportunities.
When Orem did have a shot on goal, Braves goalkeeper Josh Ludlow stopped the attempt in its tracks.
“He’s been clutch during the entire postseason,” said Plank. “He stepped in there and stopped so many good shots. The defense really did a great job, but Josh has been great for us all season and probably had his best game of the season tonight.”
Plank said the team’s practice paid off through the entire season, and seemed to “come together at the right time” as they were heading into the 4A title game.
“These guys are a testament to that,” he said of the team’s preparation. “They played hard, they stayed aggressive, and it all came together at tonight’s game.”
The Braves finished the season with a 14-3-1 record overall, and were 8-1-1 in Region 6, earning the region title.