The Brighton Bengals, behind a strong performance from senior midfielder Luke Fairman, took home the UHSLL title on Friday night at Corner Canyon’s Charger Stadium. Brighton was able to build a strong lead with a dominant first half, including two goals and an assist from Fairman (4 goals, 2 assists total on the night). The Bengals looked like they might run away with the game as they built an 8-3 lead at the half, but Corner Canyon has been a second-half team all season, and the championship game was no exception; the Chargers put on a furious comeback, scoring five in the fourth quarter and cutting the Bengal lead to a single point, but a goal from Fairman with just eight ticks left on the clock sealed the Brighton victory and closed out the game 12-10.
“It feels awesome!” exclaimed Brighton Head Coach Brandon Horoba, “These guys have worked really hard, we’ve got a lot of talent out here and this was the pinnacle of our season. I’m happy for them.”
Championship jitters were evident early in the first as both teams turned the ball over and both offenses looked out of synch. But the Chargers got on the board first in championship fashion when Harry Waddoups found longpole Garrett Bullett cutting on the crease for an impressive behind-the-back goal. But the celebration would be short-lived as the Bengal’s Luke Fairman grabbed the ball at X and quarterbacked it to middie Ryan Fogarty for the score from the top corner of the box. The goal would start a Bengal run through the rest of the first quarter, with goals from attackman Grant Pierce and two from Fairman, giving Brighton a 4-1 edge at the break.
The second quarter again started well for Corner Canyon, as Casey Rose swept across the top of the box on the first possession and unleashed a strong overhand shot to the low far pipe for the tally. Brighton answered with two goals of their own, a roll dodge from the wing to score from Bailey Pope and a rebound scoop-n-score from Pierce. A holding penalty would kill the Bengal momentum, however, and Rose scored on the man-up with a bullet from the top of the box. But the momentum swung back to the Bengals when Luke Fairman executed a mean rusty-gate check, yard-saling his opponent, and taking the ball on offense, eventually finding brother Bubba for the doorstep goal. After a little more back-and-forth, including good saves from both keepers, Brighton’s Ashton Schmidt scored the final goal of the half with a catch on the high crease, a Canadian all-righty dodge, and bounce for goal, putting the Bengals up 8-3.
The third quarter was the only one in which Brighton scored first when midfielder Dillon Pearmain decleated his man, scooped up the ball, and took it coast-to-coast for the score. But Corner Canyon responded, getting doorstep goals from Cole Parkinson and Waddoups as well as weathering a couple penalties without giving up a score. The quarter looked like it would close that way, but with just eight seconds remaining, Luke Fairman swept across the top of the box, caught a great feed from brother Bubba Fairman, and put it past the keeper for the score. The ensuing faceoff was pushed forward for the Bengal fast break and Pierce found Pope on the far crease for the score with just a second left, effectively ending the quarter with Brighton leading 11-5.
In the fourth quarter, the Chargers showed everyone why they are championship contenders, putting together a furious rally by stringing together five straight goals: a crease shot from Waddoups, a Franckowiak cut, catch, and score, two back-down rips from Rose, and a Chandler Stranc fastbreak goal. But, with all the momentum on their side, and down just a single point at 10-11, the Chargers just couldn’t get over the hump. Brighton tightened up their defense, and though there was lots of fighting for loose balls by a tenacious Charger D, the Bengals ultimately ended up with the ball late and Fairman put the nail in the coffin with eight seconds left, closing out the UHSLL championship with a score of 12-10.
“We’ve been doing really well with what works for us, and we just kept doing that,” said Horoba, “The pregame was ‘hey, we’re prepared, we’ve been doing this, we know what we’re doing: let’s just go out and do what we’ve been doing all year.”
And what the Bengals have been doing all year is win, as the championship caps off an undefeated UHSLL slate and an 18-1 season overall. The Bengals will graduate 11 players this year and look to reload for a repeat performance next season.