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SANDY — After his team beat Delta in the semifinal round of the 3A state tournament at Jordan High, Judge star center back Sam Naatz said playing in the championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium was going to be the "highlight" of his high school soccer career.
Calling what Naatz did once he actually got on the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium for the title game against Wasatch on Saturday a "highlight" would be a massive understatement.
With his team needing a lift near the end of the first half of what had been a tight battle against an outstanding Wasatch team, Naatz scored the goal of his life — and arguably one of the greatest in the history of boys soccer championship games in Utah — to put his team on the path to a 2-1 victory.
Naatz scored with a virtuoso effort in the 39th minute that began when he won the ball deep inside his own half and ultimately ended with him firing a left-footed thunderbolt from the top of the 18-yard box after he carried the ball for over 40 yards.
His team didn't look back from there.
Galvanized by Naatz's electrifying goal, the Bulldogs really got going in the second half and proved to be too much for Wasatch. Striker Ross Terrill added a crucial second goal from the spot in the 48th minute.
In the end, it was what Naatz thought it would be.
"This," he said amidst Judge's celebrations, "is the highlight of my high school career. I can't even put it into words. It's amazing."
What he did with the ball in the 39th minute of the title game Saturday was most definitely amazing, and it ultimately enabled Judge to break through with its first boys soccer title since 1989 after losing in the semifinals the previous two seasons.
Wasatch had had more scoring chances than Judge when Naatz — as he did on so many occasions this spring — won the ball deep in his own half.
After playing the ball forward to striker Oliver Diamond on the right side, Naatz, the Deseret News All-Tournament MVP, took off from his normal spot at the back and starting sprinting toward goal.
When Diamond tried to play the ball back, it took a fortuitous deflection into the path of Naatz at midfield.
But the ball at his feet was still inside the center circle, a full 60 yards away from Wasatch's goal.
That distance changed in a hurry.
Naatz ran at Wasatch's defense, cut outside to beat a defender and unleashed a thunderbolt from outside the top of the box that flew into the upper-right corner of goal.
Judge senior Cole Pollard scored a screamer himself a day earlier against Delta, which Naatz described as "absolutely filthy," and Pollard was more than happy to return the favor after Saturday's game.
"Oh man, as he quoted (about) me, that was just filthy," said Pollard. "Right when he cut that guy, I just knew that it was in. He ran on pure adrenaline there."
Added Judge coach Kelly Terrill: "It was just pure will. He's just that kind of kid."
Of course, there was still an entire half of soccer to still be played after Naatz's wonder goal. But Judge played like it needed to after halftime to take care of business.
Up until Wasatch striker Devon Hall pulled a goal back in the 77th minute to set up a frantic final 21/2 minutes, the Bulldogs were incredibly strong at the back and solid going the other way, possessing the ball and making life very tough for Wasatch.
Ross Terrill calmly sent Wasatch's goalie the other way before firing home a penalty kick eight minutes into the second half, and that second goal ultimately proved to be just enough.
"It gave us a nice 2-0 lead with about 25 minutes left, and we just cruised home," said coach Terrill. "I think the boys kind of felt like we did enough, and they were just kind of holding on there at the end."
Hold on, Judge ultimately did, and the Bulldogs walked away with the title.
3A all-tournament team
MVP: Sam Naatz, Judge
Ross Terrill, Judge
Bryan Garay, Ben Lomond
Brian Piacitelli, Delta
Cole Pollard, Judge
Drew Abby, Judge
Matt Carr, Wasatch
Max Bell, Judge
Robert Higgins, Judge
Colin Christensen, Delta
Collin Hopkins, Wasatch
Dustin Armstrong, Wasatch