Head Coach Burt Myers and his Dixie Flyers were well aware of the quick scoring capability possessed by the Cedar Redmen.
Earlier in the year, Michael Briano used up just 18 seconds of the clock to score a game-winner in the opening half of overtime to down Dixie.
The Flyers were also on hand for the Redmen’s semifinal match with the Pine View Panthers Friday — a game that saw Cedar strike for two quick goals in the opening seven minutes.
But in Saturday’s 3A state final at Rio Tinto Stadium — home of the Flyers’ state championship two years ago — Dixie struck first and second to come out on top of a 3-1 final.
“We read the papers,” Myers said. “We knew that’s what they’d try to do, so we just tried to reverse it and say, ‘You know what? That’s a great goal, guys. Let’s go out and try and get two on ’em.”
Ten minutes passed before Tyler Bennett found himself with the ball inside the 18-yard box. Bennett beat a pair of defenders, and Cedar goalkeeper Kaeland Osborn came out to meet him near the penalty kick area. Bennett pushed the ball to his right, past Osborn, setting up the shot that struck the netting.
“I was just thinking, ‘Go for the goal,’ ” Bennett said. “I kind of rolled it, and it just went around the (defender). I went around him and tapped it past the keeper.”
Eight minutes later, Jonathan Acosta worked his way through the Cedar defense, and from point blank, thundered a shot at Osborn. Somehow, Osborn managed to get enough of the shot, but the ball fell at the feet of Caesar Perez, who struck the back of the net as Osborn lifted himself from the grass.
“I thought (Acosta) was going to make that one,” Perez said. “It bounced right into my stride, and I was already moving forward. I just hit it in. I just followed the play.”
And suddenly, the Redmen found themselves on the wrong side of a 2-0 deficit.
“We watched part of the Cedar (semifinal) game, and we saw how aggressive they were playing,” Bennett said. “Our focus was get two quick goals, and that’s what we did.”
Both Osborn and Flyers keeper Hayden Matthews saw plenty of work through the rest of the first half, but both turned each threat away.
The Flyers led 2-0 coming out of halftime, but wasted no time getting right back into the Redmen’s defensive third, but again, Osborn fended off would-be scores.
In the 33rd minute, Dixie’s Keenan McLane lofted a cross into Luis Rabago, waiting on the far post. Rabago one-touched the volley down, just out of Osborn’s reach to put the Flyers up 3-0.
“We challenged each player to trust your teammate, do your job, do it well and believe in each other, and keep your spacing,” Myers said. “We got that third goal, and that helped us out a ton.”
Brett Sillitoe put the Redmen on the board in the 60th minute when Matthews came out on attempting to grab the ball. Sillitoe gathered the loose ball with his back to the goal and Matthews right on him, turned and fired.
The score held for the remaining 20 minutes. Then with less than a minute remaining, Dixie’s fans began to shout, its players gathered at the sideline, waiting to rush the field and Myers raised his hand in victory for the second time in three years.
“This is the sweetest,” he said. “The last one’s always the sweetest. This one’s really fun. We’ve got a lot of young men over there, and we’ve got a lot of cultures, and they brought it together, and every one of them loves each other.”