Sandy • As the American Fork and Davis high school soccer teams lined up for handshakes after the game, Cavemen coach Derek Dunn hung back. He knelt in the grass, forehead right up against the ground, tears in his eyes.
It wasn’t just that American Fork had just won their second 6A championship in three years by beating Davis 1-0 Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium. It was the culmination of a season filled with support from his players, the parents and the school. It was about feeling like a good example to his wife and two children. It was about his grandfather, who died from cancer a few years ago and whose birthday is this month.
“It just really took me home,” Dunn said of the moment.
The Cavemen were full of emotion, too, as they gutted out yet another game that came down to just one goal. American Fork had to win two 1-0 games in a row to claim the 6A title after blowing out Westlake 5-1 in the second round 10 days ago.
And in the quarterfinals against Bingham, the Cavemen had to win in a penalty shootout after both teams went scoreless before then.
“What’s crazy is we went on a scoring drought,” Dunn said. “And you look at the rest of the season, we really haven’t had big scorers. In the past, we’ve had scorers and we’d just go at it. This is all defense this year for sure.”
And it was American Fork’s defense that led to the result. The first half was all defensive by both teams, with just one shot on goal for each.
Just five minutes into the second half, Grace Nicol of Davis had the best opportunity of the game for both teams with her attempt at goal. But Cavemen goalkeeper Haven Empey made the athletic save to keep the Darts scoreless.
“I was nervous, but I trust Haven with my life,” American Fork junior forward Addie Gardner said. “She’s awesome. She literally can save anything. She’s incredible.”
Then American Fork broke through in the 59th. The Cavemen found themselves on a 3-on-1 break when Gardner received the ball from a teammate and scored. American Fork didn’t relinquish its lead for the rest of the game.
“To be honest, I just tried to do my best to get to the ball and get in front of it and then place it,” Gardner said. “It worked out awesome.”
The game was a rematch of the 2018 quarterfinal between the American Fork and Davis, which won that game 2-1.
American Fork won its last 6A title in 2017.