BY SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
BOUNTIFUL — At times, the Bountiful Braves boys’ soccer team made the game look easy.
After finishing the preseason 2-2 following losses to Davis and Layton, the Braves went on to win seven straight Region 6 matches and didn’t have a loss until its final game against rival Woods Cross.
Claiming a Region 6 title, however, didn’t grant them an easy path through the playoffs.
“It was a difficult road, that’s for certain,” said Braves coach Lou Plank. “We practiced hard and did all the little things to get here. We did all the necessary things that we needed to do and that helped us get to this game.”
The Braves started their playoff run with a home victory over Hillcrest in the opening round, 3-1. Three different Braves scored the three goals: Cesar Duenas, Kaleb Maynard, and Tristan Booth. It was a pattern the Braves have used to their advantage throughout the season.
“I think we had a few hiccups when we started,” said Plank after the championship game. “But that helped us grow as a team. Eventually everything started coming together, and you could see that their performance on the field was just getting better with each game.”
That momentum, however, almost ended twice as the Braves moved through the playoffs
Its next two games were both won by shootouts.
Mountain View, Bountiful’s quarterfinal opponent, pushed the Braves to the brink of elimination after forcing the game to overtime with a late goal.
The Braves, won the shooutout 4-2, and Josh Ludlow was credited by Plank and the team for his solid performance.
But the close call didn’t end after one game. Bountiful nearly had its state title game appearance taken away just days later at the semifinal game against Murray.
Having already come back from a 3-2 deficit, Bountiful pushed across a second half goal to force the game into an eventual shootout.
Bountiful won the shootout again, 5-4, and Plank said Ludlow’s play during the pair of shootouts was “as clutch of a performance” as he’s seen from his goalkeeper.
“It’s rare that you have to rely on penalty kicks to win a game, let alone have to move onto the next round of the playoffs,” said Plank. “Josh was huge for us all season long. He made the stops, made the right move when he needed to, and helped us get (to the championship game).”
Duenas scored on a penalty kick in the championship game against Orem.
He said afterward that the team wouldn’t be in a position to win the state title without the support of everyone from the coaches to the fans.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without all my teammates, my coaches, and the fans. They’ve all been great.”
Multiple shooters led the Braves’ scoring.
Kaleb Maynard led the team with six goals, and four other players each had five goals on the season.