Park City boys soccer topples region favorite Juan Diego
Park City High School’s varsity boys soccer team logged a quality win on Thursday evening against Juan Diego Catholic High School, although it was an own goal off a Soaring Eagle player that sealed the deal for the Miners. With three minutes left, a Juan Diego defender attempted to head off a Park City ball soaring toward the goal. Instead, the ball caromed off the crown of his head, into the goal, and sending the Miners to victory.
It was an ignominious end to a back-and-forth, physical match. The Soaring Eagle, who some favored to win the region this year, had eliminated Park City from the Class 3A playoffs the previous season and the Miners are scheduled to play Juan Diego again in Draper on April 27.
While Juan Diego was hoist by its own petard, it was a late goal from a Miner outside right back, junior Johnny Flitton, that enabled Park City to come out on top.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, senior James Shagen hustled into Soaring Eagle territory with the ball and passed it across the field between several Juan Diego defenders. Flitton, to the left of the goal, took advantage of his position and kicked it straight past the goalkeeper and into the net to tie the match 3-3, eliciting an explosion of cheers from the Park City bench and bleachers.
For Flitton, it was a breakthrough in a season of growth for the Miners. Prior to the win over Juan Diego, the team suffered its lone loss of the season at Bonneville. Flitton said Thursday’s win was the product of that wake-up call.
“I was just relieved, it kind of felt like we earned that,” Flitton said of his and Shagen’s goal. “It was like artwork. … It was just a perfectly formed play.”
The game-tying goal was the product of a change of pace from Park City coach Tom Merchant, who made the call to bring Flitton more to the front of the offense. Flitton, who was on the 2017 squad, said he found it a satisfying chapter in the Park City-Juan Diego soccer rivalry because of the challenge the Soaring Eagle brought to Dozier Field.
“After last year, when they knocked us out, I was in despair,” Flitton said. “(This) was my favorite game this season by far just because of how much of a fight it was. It wasn’t easy for us, we had to earn it.”
Merchant said he hopes the team will bring the energy and speed on display Thursday to every game, not just to revenge matchups.
“We moved the ball a little better than we have been,” Merchant said. “When you move the ball rapidly, you make more mistakes, but you put other teams in very difficult positions.”
Going forward, Merchant hopes the team can continue their growth.
“This is a team that’s growing,” Merchant said. “It’s very talented, but it’s growing and it’s mostly growing by heart, they’re learning that, even when it hurts, you can do more.”
The team’s next game is a rematch with the Scots of Ben Lomond High School, who Park City eked out a chippy 3-2 win against earlier in the season.
Flitton said that as the team has evolved, he thinks they’ll be able to use those lessons to avoid breakdowns in teamwork and the head game.
“They’ll just have to beat us on the field,” Flitton said. “We’re a stronger team (now).”
With the win, Park City sits atop Class 4A’s Region 11 with a record of 5-1. The next boys soccer match will be against Ben Lomond High School, set for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Ogden.
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