Miners beat Lehi, tie Mountain Crest
It’s a beautiful day in Mike Guetschow’s neighborhood. It’s mid-March, his team is playing on its home field in the preseason for the first time in anyone’s recent memory thanks to the turf on Dozier Field. What’s more is his team has yet to lose on that turf, beating rival Lehi 3-0 on Tuesday and tying with highly-ranked 4A Mountain Crest on Thursday.
"It’s been great to have this field available," Guetschow said. "The spring sports coaches are the only ones who don’t think global warming is bad."
The only problem is, Guetschow may have lost his favorite neighbor.
Mere minutes after leading scorer and Park City team captain AJ Gitlin knocked in what looked like a wide-open goal was he down on the sidelines after contact with a Mountain Crest player writhing in pain and mumbling expletives that earned him a red card.
After that, the Miners were forced to play without their star player and the humbling thought that depending on the diagnosis of Gitlin’s injury, he night not return to the field for awhile.
Scoreless at half and minus Gitlin, the Miners returned to the field with noticeable passion, creating many opportunities, but could not overcome the Mountain Crest defense.
"This was the first game this year we played with heart," said Park City player Tommy Martin. "There was suddenly a reason why we couldn’t give up. It gave us a reason to fight."
Luckily, the effort was the same on the other end with goalie Jacob Sirianni recording numerous saves and the backfield combo of Murray Hawker and Wes Uribe working togther to stymie Mountain Crest’s progress.
"They played really well in the back," Guetschow said. "They played four games together and they are starting to gel and get comfortable with each other."
The balanced defense and missed shots eventually sent the scoreless teams into overtime, but by then both teams were too tired to convert and the gameended in 0-0 tie.
"It was frustrating, but it was good to see us creating chances," Martin said.
Martin added that the determination in the Mountain Crest game bodes well for the future.
"It was definitely a positive tie," Martin said. "We could have won."
"These guys are ranked in 4A," Guetschow said. "It’s a bigger school and we’re playing a man down and we’re still able to possess the ball."
The Miners fared a bit better two days earlier against long-time rival Lehi, winning 3-0. Even though none of the current Park City players remember the intense inter-region rivalry of days past, Martin stays the intensity is still there.
"Apparently, it is a big rivalry," Martin said. "It was definitely good to represent Park City."
In the first half, the Miners moved the ball well and were finally able to convert a goal by Gitlin late in the half, off of an assist by Austin Stevens.
In the second, the Miners started out a bit flat, but a revamped Lehi team brought Park City out of their funk quickly. The game tempo remained even until a missed Lehi shot deflated their confidence, and Park City capitalized on it. With a few minutes left in the game, Stevens made a cross to Brian Johnson to seal the game at 2-0. Then in the waning moments, Johnson scored again off of an Uribe assist to win the game, 3-0.
According to Guetschow, Gitlin’s prognosis is not good, but the team remains hopeful that it is an injury he can recover from in a few weeks. Otherwise, other scorers, such as Stevens will have to step up.
"Austin Stevens the person we’ll look to," Martin said. "Once he gets in rhythm, he scores like crazy."
Guetschow said he would be most disappointed if Gitlin did not get the opportunity to reach his full potential this season.
"AJ’s made some great strides this year," Guetschow said. "It’s been really good to see him mature and take on the team. He’s worked so hard to get to this place."
The Miners now need to take their passion and energy and focus fully on Saturday’s game against the No. 1 ranked Juan Diego Soaring Eagle. Much like the Miners team of last year, Juan Diego boasts a lineup of all-star seniors. Guetschow plans to use the game as barometer to evaluate his young team’s potential for the rest of the season.
"It will be a good gauge of what we need to work on," Guetschow said. "The goal is to see where we can be at the end of the season.
The Miners will host the Soaring Eagle on Saturday, March 17 at 1 p.m. at Dozier Field.
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When it comes to the U.S. census, let’s just say Park City has… room for improvement.