ST. GEORGE – After winning the 3A state title in 2012, the Dixie boys soccer team looked like they were going repeat as champions, before their championship run was cut short in a penalty shootout against Wasatch in the 2013 quarterfinals.
That loss motivated the Flyers to come back even stronger last season and to show everyone that 2012 was no fluke. After an incredible playoff run, the Flyers offensive firepower was too much for Cedar to overcome in a 3-1 victory, to win its second 3A championship in the last three years.
“Winning state last year was amazing,” junior forward Tyler Bennett said after practice as the team prepared for its game against Snow Canyon. “Our goal is definitely to get back there, but we have to take each game one at a time, because we know everybody is going to give us their best shot.”
Even though Dixie (7-2-3, 6-0-1) is off to another great start this season, the team has faced a lot of adversity this year due to a plethora of players who have gone down with the injury bug.
“I’ve been coaching for a while now, and this year has been one of the most challenging, because of how many guys who have gone down,” Dixie soccer coach Burton Myers said after the game against Desert Hills on Tuesday. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately, most of the guys have been able to come back relatively quickly, but we still haven’t been able to get everyone back at the same time. On the bright side, this has given us a chance, to develop our depth and to give the younger guys a chance to play.”
Senior McLane Keenan echoed his coach’s words when he said, “Injuries are always tough, but it also gives other people a chance to step up and make a name for themselves and that’s what guys have done for us this year. It also helps that we have 16 seniors on the team this year too.”
While Dixie hasn’t had any problems putting points on the board, one of the areas coming into the season that needed addressing was who was going to step up and replace one of the top goalkeepers in the entire state last year in Hayden Matthews.
Matthews recorded eight shutouts last year for the Flyers and is now playing for Dixie State University.
“Hayden was great for us,” Myers said. “Because of the injury bug this season, we have started several guys back there and each has done a terrific job for us.”
Ethan Poulton started in goal for the Flyers at the start of the season before sustaining a concussion a week ago. Sophomore Bridger Wright then stepped in for two games before getting injured in the second half against Snow Canyon Thursday night. Third string and freshman keeper Kieran Atkin filled in to help preserve the shutout for the Flyers in a 3-0 victory.
“That’s the way our team has been all year and has had to play,” Myers said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my guys for the way they have stuck together and continue to help each other out.”
Knowing he was going to start brought against Desert Hills on Tuesday brought some butterflies to Wright, but his teammates made sure to pick him up and lead him to his first varsity victory.
“Starting was a completely different feeling then coming in during a game when Ethan got hurt, Wright said. “I was nervous coming in, but my teammates have been awesome and have helped me throughout this whole process.”
So far this season, all three goalkeepers have been helped by an offensive that just keeps on scoring. After scoring six goals against the Thunder earlier this week, the Flyers put up three more against the Warriors.
While the injury bug has been tough to get the chemistry going, the offense for the Flyers hasn’t missed a beat and has helped the team become one of the most balanced in the state.
So far this year, the Flyers have had at least 10 different players score a goal, while seven have scored more than one goal this year.
“Were all good friends and its fun to be out there with everyone,” Bennett said. “A lot of us have been on the same team since we were kids and its all paying off.”
Follow Justin Giles on Twitter @Justingiles22.
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