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Big Horn boys soccer pushes for playoffs, celebrates Senior Night with victory over Laurel

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Big Horns junior Beckett Johnson heads the ball in the first half against the Laurel Locomotives. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

Beckett Johnson nets second half hat trick

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER

Lone Peak High School boys soccer took control in a key matchup against Laurel High School, both teams vying for a playoff berth.

After trailing 1-0 to the Laurel Locomotives at halftime, the Big Horns charged back in the second half for a 4-1 victory that would elevate them over Laurel in the standings in the unlikely case of a tie.

Two scores by Beckett Johnson characterized the first four minutes of the second half. Johnson finished with a hat trick, the second of his life and his first for Lone Peak.

His first goal looked nearly identical to a shot he doinked off the corner crossbar last game—from about 20 yards away near the left corner of the box, he bent a left-footed shot into the top-right corner.

“Usually if I’m within 20 yards out of the goal, and I have a shot, I’m gonna take it. Unless someone’s screaming at me,” Johnson said after the game. “I took the same shot last time and figured I could try again and put a bit less on it.”

The Big Horns celebrate after a goal early in the second half. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

Less than two minutes after tying the score, the Big Horns quickly set Johnson up in the middle of the pitch for a bouncing shot to the right of the goalkeeper’s dive.

“When we were coming back [after my first goal], I was yelling to everybody that it’s not over, we gotta get more. We had to win that game,” Johnson said. “If we lost this game, we probably wouldn’t have made it to the state playoffs.”

Before the Big Horns’ second half scoring barrage, the Locomotives grabbed an early lead, when Brayden Bennington ripped a free kick from 40 yards into the top left corner. Throughout the first half, their defense was strong, often closing in three-on-one against threatening Big Horns. They also ran an effective offside trap during the first half, drawing three early calls to stop the Big Horns’ momentum.

Laurel’s keeper made a jumping punch-save to keep senior Alex Rager from scoring early in the contest, junior Trygve Wikan couldn’t catch up to a through-ball on a breakaway, junior Cash Beattie took two close-range free kicks to no avail, and Beckett Johnson and Alex Rager both missed shots wide left during stoppage time.

Cash Beattie makes a long run up the middle of the pitch in the second half. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

Perhaps the halftime ceremony served as a reset for Lone Peak, as athletics director John Hannahs recognized graduating seniors Colter Marino, Max Romney and Alex Rager.  

Marino was thrilled to have had the opportunity play on this team since the beginning, Hannahs announced over the loudspeaker. He plans to attend college and study computer science or finance.

Romney’s favorite memory was last year’s play-in game against Billings Central when a season of hard work came together in a big win, Hannahs said. He plans to attend college, find something he loves doing and make a career out of it.

Soccer taught Rager to be a selfless part of a team and communicate wants and needs. Being a Big Horns soccer player brings this feeling locally and solidifies his roots, said Hannahs. He plans to study mechanical engineering in college.

Finally, coaches Coppola and Hyder wrote a statement of gratitude to the seniors, read by Hannahs:

“All three of you in one way or another embody our three tenants of the 2022 season of commitment, respect and brotherhood… For many on the team, you have been a brother to look up to, lean on, and at times poke fun at,” Hannahs read. “You have all been an integral part of building the program, and we want you to know that you have created a positive and remarkable example to follow.”

After the Senior Night ceremony, the second half began. With wind from the west on the Big Horns back, the game quickly changed in favor of Johnson and the Big Horns.

The student section was boisterous and engaged throughout the evening of Big Horn soccer.

“Beckett, throw it in the goal,” shouted a member of the Lone Peak student section as Johnson grabbed the ball for a throw-in after his second score.

Freshman Ian Pecunies attempted a bicycle kick on a ball gently floating in front of the goal, but his bold effort missed just right of the net.

Pecunies advances on the Locomotive goal in the second half. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

With 18 minutes remaining, Beckett Johnson lined up for a penalty kick and a chance to score his third goal.

“I was watching Brazil versus Tunisia yesterday, and I saw Neymar take a penalty,” Johnson said after the game. “I kind of just did what he did: a little stutter, a big pause, then a little jump to see where his feet were looking. And then I just put [my shot] the opposite way.”

Wikan scored during stoppage time, contributing the 4-1 Big Horn victory over the Locomotives.

“We’re really in control of our own destiny now,” said Coppola, adding that something crazy would need to happen now to keep the Big Horns out of the playoffs.

The Big Horns nearly converted multiple headers off throw-ins into goals, but never capitalized. PHOTO BY JASON BACAJ

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