Having swept rival Hillcrest, Cottonwood soccer is off to its hottest start in yearsMay 02, 2022 08:54PM ● By Brian Shaw
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
Cottonwood is in a new region. Its boys soccer team has a new head coach in Brylee Harvest. By all accounts you would expect the Colts to be struggling as they adjust to their new life in Region 7, traveling anywhere from 50 to 200 miles at a time for away matches.
But, according to Harvest, the struggles that the Colts had winning games earlier in the preseason have now transformed the boys into a team that people in the surrounding South Salt Lake and Murray areas will remember for a long time, a turning point that began with Cottonwood’s first home game in its very short Region 7 history on March 25.
“We ended up beating Hillcrest 1-0 in a game that will be talked about within our program for many years,” said Harvest. “The fashion of the win couldn't have been more dramatic, the goal was scored from a free kick near half field with one minute remaining in our region home region opener.”
Harvest added that it has been a long time since the Colts have won within the friendly confines of their natural grass field that is tucked between Cottonwood’s softball field and baseball stadium.
“It marked the first home win in four years, the first defensive shutout in five years, and the boys deserved every bit of that result,” said Harvest.
The historic victory over crosstown rivals Hillcrest came after a disappointing region opener for the Colts at Stansbury on March 18, one that broke the players’ hearts in a late game-winner and a 1-0 loss. But that the Colts did not fall apart after such a difficult loss and then bounced back immediately the following week was a testament to the team, who then reached another milestone after the big win over Hillcrest, said Harvest.
“To follow up on the Hillcrest game, our team showed great focus and poise to record another defensive shutout and beat Cedar Valley 1-0,” said the first-year coach. “The win streak marked the first one since the 2017 season.”
Going into the month of April, these Colts were riding high in the saddle at 2-1 in their new region. But, as things are sometimes wont to do, the good times don’t always last, and they didn’t for Cottonwood, said Harvest as his team experienced some ups and downs.
“We then came up short in a close game against Tooele 3-2 [on April 1], but we were able to rebound in a 3-0 win against Payson [April 6] positioning ourselves as high as third in a tough balanced region,” said Harvest, who acknowledged that his team has been undergoing some growing pains.
“We lost an absolute heartbreak of a game in Vernal against Uintah on penalties [on April 8], then had to make the painful three-hour ride back home,” said Harvest, whose team has a 4-8 record overall, with all four of their wins coming in region play. “In the following game, the heartbreak continued with a 2-1 loss to the top team in our region (Stansbury, April 15) in double overtime.”
But the Colts grabbed their fourth win of the region campaign and the year in the following game at rival Hillcrest, a quick bus ride across Interstate 215 in which Cottonwood scored the first two goals of the game in the first half and held on for a 2-1 victory.
Five games remain for the Colts, all in region play. The sweep of rival Hillcrest was big and so too have the four victories been for Cottonwood. But for coach Harvest, his team will only control what they can control going forward. They have a potent offense with juniors Ulises Alvarado and Riyan Bakrim having scored three goals apiece to lead Cottonwood.
“Heading into the second half of the season, our focus has been to finish region play strong and to prepare ourselves for the state tournament,” said Harvest, whose team has had seven players score at least one goal or more this year for a total of 14 goals. “Seeding in the state tournament is not of concern for me, as we have continuously shown that we can compete against anyone in the state.“I strongly believe that being involved in so many close games this year will pay great dividends for us in the playoffs,” Harvest said. “This 2022 team has been involved in an abundance of one-score games (nine to be exact), four overtimes, and one penalty shootout. Making sure our team is healthy heading into the tournament is the biggest priority