HURRICANE – With four goals scored in its last five games, it was easy to see why the Cedar Redmen were struggling to keep pace in the race for the 3A state soccer playoffs.
With two huge saves from senior goalkeeper Kaeland Osborn early in the second half, the Cedar offense woke up from a big-time slumber and kept hope alive.
Michael Briano scored two goals — one in each half — and the Reds matched their output from the previous five games with a 4-2 victory over Hurricane on Wednesday night to improve to 6-4-1 in Region 9 play. With one game remaining Friday at Snow Canyon, Cedar has a full three-point edge over Desert Hills in the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot.
“We put pressure on Hurricane’s back line and good things happened, especially in that second half,” Cedar coach Scott Kamachi said. “This may be Kaeland’s favorite field.”
Briano scored off a header from inside the 18 in the 16th minute to help Cedar strike first, but when the second half began, the pace and the scoring chances picked up.
Osborn was up to the task to keep the Tigers (2-9-0 Region 9) off the board. The senior stared down one shooter and robbed him on a one-on-one break, then moments later raced over to the sideline to the right of the Cedar cage to poke a ball away and cut off another scoring chance.
“After I make the instinct move, I’m thinking ‘my teammates work their butts off for 80 minutes running, sliding, getting turf burns, and I’m just there to help them out when they need it,” Osborn said.
In the space of less than two minutes, the offense rode the inspiration from their keeper and put the game in its corner.
In the 52nd minute, Matt Allen found the ball through a maze of players and booted it from in close off both posts and in the net. Briano followed with his second goal of the game in the 54th minute for a 3-0 Cedar lead.
“This was one step forward to get to the playoffs,” Briano said. “Brock (Shipp) was meaning to send me the ball (on the second goal), but Matt got it to me instead, and I finished it off.”
Greyson Jones completed Cedar’s fireworks with a goal in the 69th minute to make it 4-0, but Hurricane avoided the shutout three minutes later when Kyson Spendlove beat Osborn to a loose ball and put it in the net.
The Tigers added a second goal in the 73rd minute when Cedar was whistled for a hand ball in the penalty box and Stanley Rosander converted the penalty kick for the final margin.
A win or a tie against the Warriors on Friday would allow Cedar to secure the final Region 9 playoff spot, although it owns the tiebreaker with Desert Hills. The Thunder close the season at Hurricane against the Tigers.