High school boys soccer: American Fork breaks 40-year drought with 6A state championship victory

American Fork and Farmington compete in the 6A boys soccer state championship in Sandy on Thursday, May 23, 2024. AF won 1-0.
American Fork and Farmington compete in the 6A boys soccer state championship in Sandy on Thursday, May 23, 2024. AF won 1-0. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Junior forward Demetri Larsen spent his Wednesday practicing his shot from one particular location around the 36-foot mark.

Little did he know at the time that it was the spot where he would have a chance to make a generational play for his team.

Forty years is a long time for any high school team to go without a state championship. It feels especially long for a team representing American Fork, which has won state in 11 different sports since the turn of the century but hadn’t laid hands on the coveted trophy for boys soccer since 1984, back when 46-year-old Cavemen coach Casey Waldron was in the first grade.

But when senior Ben Harley’s corner kick Thursday in the 6A state championship match went right where it needed to go, it got booted out of the scrum into the waiting feet of Larsen, who fired it through the hands of Farmington’s goalie for American Fork’s lone goal.

That goal ultimately decided the match 1-0 over No. 1 Farmington, as the No. 2 Cavemen claimed the long-awaited state title.

“We had nothing to lose,” Larsen said. “We hadn’t won it in 40 years, and we just wanted to prove ourselves this season, and we won region and now we won state.”

No player on the field Thursday was around the last time the Cavemen were state champs, but Waldron said he’d heard plenty about those years from members of the community, including his business colleague Robert Edwards, who was a member of both the 1983 and 1984 state championship squads.

And Edwards wasn’t the only one.

“We actually had the captain of that team 40 years ago call us out via email (before the match),” Waldron said. “He was really excited for us, but he said ‘Hey guys, it’s time.’ We felt the support from all over. It just feels awesome. It feels really good.”

The Cavemen thrived all year on offense, scoring a blistering 3.4 goals per game during the season, though they’d given up a lot on defense with 27 goals allowed relative to the 11 Farmington had conceded.

So what was going to happen when the fiery American Fork offense ran into the block of ice that was Farmington’s defense?

Apparently, what happened was a complete role reversal, as Farmington actually took significantly more shots and had a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal.

Meanwhile, the Cavemen played the part of a feisty and physical defensive team, and senior goalkeeper Sebastian Borreda stretched, leaped and dove for every game-changing save.

“We thought that Farmington would be more of a defensive team and control the midfield,” Waldron said, “but they came right at us. … It was a really interesting game to see how it played out that way.”

Of course, American Fork had to break script plenty to get over the hump, winning twice in shootouts during the playoffs, and that’s including the 6A semifinals following a scoreless regulation and two overtimes.

“Anyone who’s seen the stats knows we gave up a lot of goals (this season), but we did score a ton of goals,” Waldron said. “This feels really good to get two clean sheets in two games consecutively.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our back line and our midfield that organized us, kept our shape and really won the game for us.”

It felt good, Waldron said, to be able to get in control of the match early on after many of the Cavemen’s matches during the season involved late-game heroics.

The Cavemen wouldn’t have even sniffed the title game this season had it not been for a second-round 4-3 comeback against Weber after trailing 3-1.

“The pressure did come a little bit later in the game, but hey, we’ll take it,” Waldron said.

Waldron, who is on staff with American Fork’s girls soccer team that has won titles twice since 2017, has now finished his 10th year coaching the program.

In that span, he’s seen the Cavemen bring home trophies 27 times in 10 different sports.

He couldn’t be prouder to make it 28 and 11.

“Boys soccer was always like, ‘Hey, we gotta come up to speed as well,’” Waldron said. “It feels really good to now join those other champions on campus.”