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3A high school soccer championship: Wasatch boys finally win elusive state title

By James Edward, Deseret News | Posted - May 14, 2011 at 10:52 p.m.

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SANDY — Wasatch High has had a lot of good soccer teams during coach Dawain Wheatley's 21-year tenure in Heber City, but none better than his 2011 team.

Others have had more heart, but sometimes that's just not good enough.

"This team collectively of all my teams is my best technical team," said Wheatley.

That extra bit of skill was the difference all year, and it was again on Saturday in the 3A boys soccer state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Thanks to Alex Espinoza's 64th-minute goal following an hour lightning delay, Wasatch capped its greatest season in school history with a 1-0 victory over Juan Diego for its first soccer title in school history

"This is a state championship for Heber Valley and Wasatch High School, not just this year's team. This year's team won it and earned it, but it's for everybody," said an emotional Wheatley, whose teams had lost twice previously in championship games.

In 2002, Wasatch lost in the title game after Wheatley's son missed a game-winning PK attempt. Last year, the Wasps came up short in the title game against Judge, but both of those disheartening moments were washed away on Saturday.

It wiped away decades of frustration on the girls side as well.

"It's the best thing ever. We made history for Wasatch," said Wasatch defender Collin Hopkins.

Not only did Wasatch finish the year with the elusive title, it set a pair of new records as well with 11 shutouts and only 11 goals against.

Shutting out Juan Diego, one of the most creative attacking teams in 3A, was arguably its most impressive performance of the season.

Chances were tough to come by for both teams in the first half, but things got even more complicated after halftime. The forecasted lightning storm rolled in right at the start of the second half, and in the 44th minute play was halted for an hour.

Hopkins said he and his teammates killed time during the delay listening to music and just joking around in the locker room.

Espinoza came out with a renewed vigor after halftime, and it was his bit of skill in the 64th minute that proved to be the difference. He tracked down a long through ball from Jonathan Wheatley near the top of the box and tapped it past Juan Diego's charging keeper.

It was the sophomores 21st goal of the season, and the biggest in school history.

"I've always dreamed of being a professional player and stepping onto a professional field made me feel better than I usually do when I'm out there on the field," he said.

With the 1-0 lead, Wasatch quickly inserted a second stopper into the game in hopes of protecting the one-goal cushion.

Juan Diego had promising moments in the final 15 minutes, but Wasatch's stingy defense was there to clean things up every time.

"It's a long, laborious journey filled with love, emotion. I love teaching history and government and I love coaching soccer. It's a dream career," said coach Wheatley.

Now, after coming close many times, he finally has a first-place trophy for his trophy case.


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James Edward


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