The following is sponsored by Utah Youth Soccer Association.
In a high intensity match between the top two teams in the U18 Premier 2 bracket, it is only fitting that the match ended in a high scoring draw. AFC Apex and Utah Rangers tied 4-4 in a fantastic game that featured a little bit of everything.
Apex 00 Black has been playing together for 5 years. The team, made up of mostly juniors, are a great group of boys on and off the field. This year they were happy to have a new head coach, Connor Coletti join the team. They are enjoying their success and journey through training and team work.
The ‘00 Ranger Premier team is mostly a newly formed team, coached by a Mark Graham, with two of his sons – Curtis and Dustin Graham and also Drew Taylor a father of one of the players. They often ‘cover for each other’, if someone cannot attend a training session or a game, so coaching does not become a burden. Mark has coached premier level soccer for 29 years and considers this team to be one of the most enjoyable teams he has ever coached, because of their unity, and their desire to improve.
Both teams played some fantastic soccer, and there was end to end action throughout. The game started on an AFC Apex goal scored by # 22 Christian Simmons as a ball bounced around the Rangers keeper and as he was falling to the ground he flicked it back towards goal and in. 1-0 AFC Apex.
Utah Rangers responded phenomenally and the old saying about never being more vulnerable than after a goal rang true, as they marched down the field and scored instantly as #33 Riley Gunther started what would end being a huge day for him with a goal. 1-1.
The game continued as both teams pushed the pace and there were chances on both ends. AFC Apex struck first to break the deadlock with a counter attack and a perfect placed shot at the back post by Christian Simmons made it 2-1.
Once again Rangers had the answer and once again it was Riley Gunther on a terrific effort as we weaved his way through the AFC Apex defense and his shot went up and over the keeper to tie the game. 2-2.
AFC Apex restarted the game looking to take control and they did just that with two more goals in the first half. The first was by #1 Ethan Wilson when an inch perfect cross found him alone on the back post and he buried his effort, the second involved an amazing touch from #11 Colin Johansen as he stole a pass and in the same motion set up his shot which beat the Rangers keeper. 4-2 halftime score.
The second half upped itself in physicality while the score remained 4-2. The game continued not quite the same frantic pace as the first half but just as enjoyable. Finally, a goal as the Utah Rangers with some second half adjustments to their formation and strategy, got a corner kick that was dropped by the AFC Apex keeper. As the ball fell #99 James Bichon was there to smash it home. 4-3.
Buoyed by that goal Rangers pressed hard for the equalizer throwing numbers forward and looking for the breakthrough. Into stoppage time the game remained 4-3. Then on literally the last kick of the half a searching through ball found that man again, Riley Gunther, who poked it home to complete the comeback and his hat trick. The whistle blew. Game over. 4-4.