Park City boys lacrosse beats Brighton for state title in second straight year
DRAPER – The Park City High School boys lacrosse team defeated Brighton 8-7 at Corner Canyon on Saturday to take the state title for the second year in a row.
The Park City team is chock-full of elite players like All-American junior attackman Dylan Bauer, with 71 goals and 41 assists in 19 games this season, All-State first team junior long stick midfielder Andrew Pederson and All-State short stick defensive midfielder and positional state MVP junior Brady Baumann. They all played their roles in securing the state trophy, just as they all hoisted it overhead under the lights at Corner Canyon. But to beat the Bengals, the Miners leaned on some of their most unassuming players, and they came through in spades.
First, there was senior midfielder Ketch Schueler, who had 14 goals and five assists during the regular season. Schueler put the Miners on the board with 10 minutes left in the half, after the Miners went down 1-0 in the first quarter.
One minute later, Schueler’s classmate, midfielder Toby Burke, began a major appearance. After scoring 16 goals all season, he notched four crucial goals to keep the Miners in the title game.
“I tend to go off when the team really needs it,” Burke said. “When I’m not seeing any productivity, I try and do everything I can in my power to give the team a boost and put up some points. It happened tonight.”
Bauer was stifled by the defense of Brighton All-American senior long stick midfielder Matthew “MJ” Cirillo, so his contribution to the score line came largely from his ability to draw out defenders. It was an opportunity for Burke to step up.
He started his spree with nine minutes remaining in the first half with a run straight at the defense and a quick dip of the shoulder that gave him room to shoot and score.
Five minutes later, Burke got the ball in a similar position – the alley on the left side of the field, from the Miners perspective. This time, Burke cut left and fired a left handed shot past the keeper; 3-1, Miners.
Burke scored his third goal of the night with 20 seconds left in the first half. He was waiting beside the goal when a shot bounced off the Brighton keeper. He scooped it up and plopped it into the net.
At halftime the Miners led 5-2 – three of their goals came from Burke.
He scored his last goal of the night with seven minutes left in the third quarter when he won the ball from the Bengals defense while they were trying to clear it from their own defensive zone. He gained possession within 10 yards of the goal, sprinted to within a handful of yards and dashed it home for a 6-2 lead.
Burke said it was his second time this season picking up the scoring slack, the other time being against Valor Christian of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, when he scored three goals in a 12-8 losing effort.
Another unlikely Miners standout was senior goalkeeper Griff Riggs.
This was Riggs’ first season as the varsity team’s starting keeper after standing in the shadow of All-American goalkeeper Connor French through most of his high school career. But Riggs came up with several big saves that allowed the Miners to keep their lead through most of the game.
In the first quarter, when the Miners were down 1-0, he staved off a series of attacks during an eight-minute stretch of possession by the Bengals. He put up three solid saves, including one with his foot to keep the tigers at bay while the Miners searched for their offense.
He also managed three saves early in the third quarter – during which Bengals were beginning to mount their last and most successful push of the game, but only scored once.
But the Bengals weren’t done.
Each time the Miners faced the Bengals over past seasons, head coach Brian Bilzi has reminded his team that the Bengals attack in waves. They mounted their most concerted effort of the game in the fourth quarter, scoring four goals.
The Miners entered the fourth quarter leading 6-3, but a spell of strong possession by the Bengals, compounded by Miner fouls, put Brighton in control.
The Bengals scored twice early in the fourth quarter – a shot from about 12 yards out from midfielder Ben Bunker, then a rapid one-two pass sequence opened up attackman Josh Nydegger for a goal with 10 minutes to play.
Then, with five minutes left, Brighton midfielder Blake Yates ran in an arc toward the goal and found space to shoot from about 10 yards out. His shot found the back of the Miners’ net, and tied the game.
A minute later, a low, close-range shot from Bunker gave the Bengals the lead for the first time since the second quarter.
After what had been largely a frustrating game for Baumann, he found space to make a long run, crossing from the Miners’ left side of the field to the right, then, having drawn all the Brighton defenders to that side, curled his run around the opposite side of the goal and swooped in a low, close-range shot. He fell over in the process, but stood up pumping his fists. The game was tied at 7-7 with 3:13 left to play.
For two tenuous minutes, it looked as if the Miners would crumble. Despite the goal to tie, their body language was slack. Calls weren’t going their way. The Miners’ fans booed the referee for buying into what they perceived as a dive from a Brighton player.
With less than two minutes left, a cycling Miners offense found sophomore attackman Connor Monson with just enough room to shoot. His shot came at a shallow angle, but it slipped past the keeper.
“I just saw an opening so I took it,” he said.
Monson, who had 19 goals in the regular season, threw his arms up in the air. Baynes tackled him in celebration so hard he fell over backwards.
“I was not ready for that,” Monson said of Baynes’ tackle.
The Bengals mounted two more attacks – a shot fired wide, then, in the last second of the game, Bunker ripped a sidearm shot from distance, but it sailed comfortably into Riggs’ pocket, and the Miners began their celebration.
Bilzi said it took “a lot of guts,” to overcome the Bengals.
“That’s what you expect from a state championship,” he said. “Our defense carried us, as they do. I’m just proud of them, really. When they tied it up we all got a little nervous, it kind of sucked the wind out of our sails. But they just dug deep.”
Monson said Burke was the game’s most valuable player, and Bilzi said Burke’s contribution was huge, describing his performance as “special,” which is how it felt to Burke, too.
“It’s my senior year, potentially my last lacrosse game ever,” he said. “So happy to end it this way.”
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.