Friday night’s 3A semifinal game between Dixie and Juan Diego added another storied chapter in the rivalry.
After the Flyers topped the Soaring Eagle in overtime last year, Juan Diego upped the ante this year with a thrilling 1-0 double-overtime victory over the two-time defending state champions. It was the fourth time in the last five years that both teams have squared off in the semifinals.
“It seems like we play them every year, and it was nice to not be on the losing end of it for a change,” Juan Diego head coach Scott Platz said. “Dixie is always a top team, and Coach Myers does a great job at getting them playing at a high level.”
Juan Diego senior Michael DiGeronimo scored the game-winning goal in the 93rd minute to lift the Soaring Eagle to victory.
“I owed it to the team,” the forward said. “It was a total team effort tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder to score the game-winning goal for my teammates.”
After being denied numerous times by Dixie keeper Ethan Poulton, DiGeronimo was finally able to get one through.
“I had to settle it down and just looked for the open space in the bottom left corner,” the forward said of his game-winning goal. “Luckily I was able to slot it through. There was no way I was going to get denied again.”
Going into Friday’s game, DiGeronimo was told by his coaches that he would be in the lineup if the game went into penalty kicks.
But that was something that the senior wanted no part of.
“I was very worried about the game going into penalty kicks,” DiGeronimo said. “I’ve been dreading it all week, and so I wasn’t going to let this game go to that. I just had to finish it.”
And that he did.
Dixie has several chances to get on the board but couldn’t sneak anything past sophomore keeper Martin Kelly.
Jose Morales, who had a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Stansbury — had a number of chances in the first half but Kelly was there for the denial every time.
Dixie’s Cristian Chavez looked like he had the first goal of the game late in the second half as the sophomore blasted a shot on goal down the right sideline. But once again, Kelly was there to deny the Flyers.
“It’s been such an honor to coach these seniors this year,” Dixie head coach Burton Myers said. “It’s hard for me to see these guys go out like this. They’re great kids who have worked so hard and really love this sport.”
Poultan is one of six players who will be graduating for the Flyers and his leadership and playmaking skills will be sorely missed.
“Each of those seniors are special but Ethan played one heck of a game tonight,” Myers said. “He was just outstanding and made so many great saves to keep us in the game.”
With the victory, the undefeated Soaring Eagle will advance to Saturday’s championship game against Snow Canyon. The game is set for 11 p.m. and will be played at Alta High School.
“We have a long history with Dixie and every game is a battle,” DiGeronimo said. “They are so talented and are always a tough team. After the losses over the years, it’s nice that we finally get our chance to go through.”