Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
AMERICAN FORK – Sometimes it’s just your day and Wednesday belonged to American Fork High boys soccer, and specifically to Nathan Mumford. The sophomore was the biggest individual story in an impressive victory for the home team as the Cavemen seized control of Region 4 with a 3-2 overtime win over rival Lone Peak.
The decisive moment in this crucial league contest came in the second minute of the second session of extra time. It was the fourth consecutive game in which American Fork played extra time (3-0-1). Positioned about 35 yards out from the goal in the center of the pitch, Mumford had a chance to put one final stamp on the day and he did not disappoint.
As the ball came towards the midfielder in the air, he dropped it towards his feet, looking to make a play, but there were no Knight defenders in the area. Before the ball could hit the turf, Mumford unleashed a wicked volley that rocketed towards the Lone Peak goal and the only thing there to stop it was the back of the net.
The laser was just over the outreached hand of Lone Peak’s goalkeeper and just beneath the crossbar. In golden goal play, the powerful finish brought a hard-fought physical battle to a sudden conclusion.
The match was much heavier on defense during the first half, when Mumford was in the center of the American Fork back line. On the other end, senior Adam Canfield anchored a strong group for Lone Peak, and the teams played nearly the entire first 40 minutes in a back-and-forth scoreless contest.
The Cavemen generated the best scoring chance during those 39 minutes, but a Riley Gunther header on the back end of a free kick sailed just over the top of the frame. Beyond that, the goalies were not tested much before intermission, at least until senior Knight defender Jaxon Henley trapped a rebound about 20 yards out and ripped a shot inside the near post in the 40th minute.
That goal broke up the defensive dominance and sent the teams to the break with Lone Peak up 1-0. That lead last all of five minutes into the second half.
As that second stanza commenced, Mumford was positioned as a center midfielder and that changed everything with the American Fork attack. It’s speed and aggressiveness going forward was raised to a new level. The Cavemen finally lit up the scoreboard in the 45th minute as Mumford scored at the end of a strong counterattack.
Gunther carried the ball across midfield and deep into the Knights’ defensive third as the Cavemen had a numbers advantage in transition. The freshman dropped the ball back nicely in the direction of the penalty spot, in the center of the pitch, where Mumford ran onto the pass about 10 yards out, just before the advancing keeper could make a play. He banged it past the goalie and into the net to level the match.
In the 61st minute, American Fork took its first lead of the afternoon after a free kick put the ball in play inside the Lone Peak 18-yard box. As the ball caromed off a number of players on both sides, it popped into the air about five yards out, where sophomore Caveman Derek Childs nodded it over the net minder’s head for the go-ahead goal.
It took just over two minutes for the Knights to equalize. Senior midfielder Griffin Garcia angled from the outside edge of the penalty area into scoring position, beating a pair of American Fork defenders in the process, before lining it up and burying a shot inside the far post to tie the game at 2-2, which is where it stayed through the end of regulation and on through the first 10-minute overtime period.
Then, less than two minutes into the second extra period, Mumford struck again. The win was the puts American Fork (5-0-1 in Region 4, 7-3-1 overall) four points up on the Knights (4-2-0, 8-2-0) in the league standings as the two front-runners head towards the back half of the region schedule.
Next up for Lone Peak is a battle with a Riverton (3-3, 3-5-2) team that is fighting to position itself to reach the postseason. The Cavemen face Westlake (1-5, 2-8).