Cottonwood boys soccer surprised many during storybook seasonMay 30, 2022 05:52PM ● By Brian Shaw
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
Starting the 5A state tournament as the No. 22 seed could have easily eroded the confidence of the Cottonwood boys soccer team. But to the Colts’ credit they never let what some believed was a low seeding affect what they did on the field.
The 2022 season came to an unfortunate end at Skyline in the second round for this No. 22 seed on May 17. But, the goals this Colts team achieved this year came with so many firsts it would be hard to call one 4-0 loss at perennial 5A power Skyline a failure, according to new Cottonwood head coach BryLee Harvest.
“Our season came to an end today, but what a remarkable and historic season that was for our boys and program,” said Harvest, the first-year head coach who watched his Colts do what few believed was even possible and also do something that hasn’t been accomplished at Cottonwood since 2008.
These Colts were no pushover at state. That much was apparent after a two-overtime non-league game that Harvest set up against 5A power Jordan one week before the state tournament showed the Colts’ determination. It was arranged to get Cottonwood (10-10, 8-4 Region 7) ready for the state tournament grind. The Colts lost that one 2-1 in double overtime at Jordan in an all-out war on May 6, but it prepared them for what was to come.
Beginning with the 5A state tournament play-in game at home May 12 against No. 27 Timpview, Cottonwood had some nerves going into this all-to-play-for decider for a state tournament berth early in the match.
“I cannot even recall how long it's been since we had the luxury of playing at home in the playoffs,” Harvest said. “But, the boys were clearly jittery playing in front of our community and playing very sloppy.”
Timpview struck first blood, and years of futility seemed to be catching up to Cottonwood, said the first-year head coach.
“We just had no answers to their aggressive approach to the game,” recalled Harvest. “We recollected ourselves at halftime and had a couple chances here and there, but still could not break through their defense [that had bunkered in and was holding on for the win].”
According to Harvest, the Colts were playing with only three defenders in the back to try and get an equalizer. Then, with three minutes to play, a cross into Timpview’s 18-yard box led to a scramble. Senior Isma Byangoy pounced on the loose ball and tapped it into the net past the flailing Timpview goalkeeper. What happened next, well, that’s why stories are written and told.
“It was just absolute mayhem when that ball hit the back of the net. The fans were screaming and the team received a huge boost of momentum in the game,” Harvest said.
Heading into overtime, one of Harvest’s assistant coaches approached him about keeping three defenders in the back and going for the early game winner, but ultimately left the decision up to him.
“I turned to the team [on the sideline] and said, ‘What do you guys want to do?’ Harvest recounted. “They said, ‘Coach, let's keep the extra attacker and go for the early goal in overtime.’”
It was in that overtime period the Colts would immediately assert their dominance, scoring a crazy goal in the first two minutes for a 2-1 win.
“[Junior] Diego Lopez whipped in a cross from near half-field and the ball landed in the feet of Riyan Bakrim who had to battle to get past their defenders. Bakrim shot the ball, deflecting off Timpview's defender straight up in the air and he proceeded to land hard on the ground,” Harvest said.
“Timpview's keeper was slightly high off his [goal] line and the ball just had this tremendous backspin and fell very oddly crossing over the goal line. [Junior] Riyan Bakrim actually had no idea that he had scored as he fell with his back away from the goal, he claimed he just saw everyone rushing the field towards him,” added the first-year head coach.
That comeback victory sent the Colts on the road for the first round of the state tournament — albeit against a familiar foe in crosstown and Region 7 rival Hillcrest.
So the Colts took the short ride across Interstate 215 to Hillcrest and for the third time this season, the Colts dispatched their crosstown rival in relatively easy fashion in a 2-1 victory.
Another short bus trip up the road to Skyline, who was Cottonwood’s rival in the old Region 6 for several years resulted in a tough ending to the season in the round of 16. But, in the new head coach’s eyes it was a storybook season regardless.
“It was a great underdog story that sets the standard for future Cottonwood soccer players,” said the first-year Cottonwood head coach. “It may be a little while for our players to recover from the realization that our season is officially over, but when they do, I want them to know that they have made their community proud and have restored pride back to Cottonwood soccer.”
This state tournament run that was kickstarted by a five-game unbeaten streak in Region 7 also proved these Colts could well be thoroughbreds by the time 2023 comes around.
“Having only lost five seniors this season, we will be back next year with a roster loaded on experience,” Harvest said. “We had over 16 juniors on this team and retain practically our entire starting lineup heading into the new season. This is only the beginning for these great group of boys.”