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The City Journals

Chargers Look to Seniors to Reach State Soccer Tournament

Apr 07, 2016 02:01PM ● By Ron Bevan

By Ron Bevan | [email protected]

Draper - Some teams set lofty goals at the beginning of the season, putting a region or state title as the target of their ambitions.

For Corner Canyon, this year’s goal is to make the state playoffs — and it looks like they might have the pieces in place to make such a run.

“We as a coaching staff are excited about this season,” Corner Canyon soccer coach Russ Boyer said. “We got some experienced players back. I think we are going to be competitive. We are in a position to qualify for state this year.”

Corner Canyon is in its third season of soccer as a school. Building the program has taken time. The first season resulted in only one win and last year’s squad took home five victories, hardly enough to merit state playoff recognition.

But with nearly all its key players from last year returning, Corner Canyon looks to not only make the state 4A playoffs for the first time but also perhaps even pick up its first playoff win or two.

“We only lost three players from last year’s team to graduation,” Boyer said. “This year we have seven seniors leading us. All had quality playing time last year. And we have several underclassmen who also played plenty of varsity time last season, so we have the experience this year.”

The Chargers are keying in on the senior class of Austin Najib, Braden Cutler, Sam Johnson, Ethan Simons, Dylan Gifford, Blake Bell and Avery Goodrich to carry them this year. All but Najib have been in a Corner Canyon uniform since the school’s inception. 

But Najib has brought a lot of experience to the team since moving to Draper from Arizona prior to his junior year. Najib was in the Real Salt Lake Academy program while in Arizona and honed his goalkeeping skills under RSL’s tutelage.

“He is a great goalkeeper,” Boyer said. “He has had some great training. His best asset is how he distributes the ball to other teammates once he gets the ball. He has a knack of also delivering the ball to one of our players. That’s really a rare talent to find in a high school goalkeeper.”

Najib has a solid defense in front of him, anchored by Cutler, who plays the sweeper position. The sweeper is the last field defender and shoulders the responsibility of cleaning up any attackers that get past other defenders. 

“Cutler was voted by his other teammates as our team’s MVP last season,” Boyer said. “He holds our defense down for us. We depend on him a lot.”

Up front the Chargers are relying on Simons to lead the scoring attack. Simons moved into the striker position after playing as a midfielder last year. He responded by putting the first goal of the season on the board, when he attacked an aerial volley off a set piece and put enough contact with his shoulder on the ball to send it into the back of the net against 5A powerhouse Jordan.

Moving a player like Simons from one position to another is a ploy Boyer likes to use to finalize how his teams will look. While soccer players are on the field nearly every month of the year with club teams, the high school gets them for only a few months.

“We try and bring them together as a team from not only different age groups but also clubs,” Boyer said. “Some of our players are rivals against each other most of the season. We have to bring them together for the short time we have. We try to fit all the pieces together and see who plays well in the different slots.”

To get to state, the Chargers are going to have to go through a few new schools that have been placed in their region, most notably Alta, the school from which Corner Canyon split.

“Most of our teams in our region are in Utah County, so we have some traveling to do,” Boyer said. “Only Alta is up here with us.”

Boyer is no stranger to Alta’s soccer program. As the former coach of Brighton, Boyer helped build up a rivalry with Alta that became a staple for high school soccer fans. He hopes to do the same with Corner Canyon.

“We avoided playing Alta the first couple of years in all our athletic programs here at Corner Canyon,” Boyer said. “We felt the split would cause some hard feelings. But now the time is right and they are in our region. It was good to give them some space. It has settled down and we are looking forward to playing them now.”