St. Joseph Catholic High School’s boys soccer team is riding high after winning the school’s first UHSAA-sanctioned 2A state championship. (The Jayhawks’ 1996 state win was not sanctioned.)
In the May 12 state championship game against Maser Prep at American First Field, the Jayhawks beat the Lions 3-0.
Going into the game, coach Paulo Franco and the team felt prepared, having extensively studied Maeser’s game and players, Franco said. “With all respect to Maeser, we knew that we were better than them. We have a lot of technical players. We knew that if we all concentrated, we would do a nice match. This is how we beat them. It was an awesome match; we played very good.”
The victory was especially sweet because last year Rowland Hall snatched away the state title in the final match.
“We were already working for [the state title] last year when we lost in the finals,” said Franco, who took the coaching position in 2022. “We worked hard this year; last year we weren’t prepared mentally.”
At the beginning of this season Franco and the team made a change in mindset to prepare mentally for the season, he said. During his time with the team, Franco also changed the team’s style of play to focus more on offensive, he said.
“It’s the mix between the winner mentality and the style we started playing after I started here,” he said. “The whole group was ready, prepared, humble, concentrated for the final. We did an amazing match.”
One standout of the season was the April 25 game against Rowland Hall, which is always an exciting match, Franco said; perhaps more so this year because of the loss at last year’s state championship.
“We beat them on their home field, 1-0 with a goal scored by Carlos Garcia, a senior – on their senior night,” Franco said.
Of the state title, he said, “We won as a group, as a family. We have a nice soccer family here. Everyone is very humble and helps each other.”
The Jayhawks finished the regular season undefeated and claimed the regional title. In state play, after a first-round bye, they defeated Freedom Prep Academy 15-0, followed by a 12-2 victory against Wasatch Academy in the quarterfinals. In the May 10 semifinal game against American Heritage, they were undefeated 5-0.
Two players contributed significantly to the success of the team this year, Franco said. Sophomore Daniel Fontes scored 36 goals this season, two of those in the final match. Junior Tomas Paraizo also made a difference in the team’s progress, he said.
“They learned a lot this season; they were very focused,” Franco said of the two players.
Clay Jones, St. Joseph CHS principal, also complimented the players.
“The soccer team dominated on the field this year, but I was really impressed by the character these student athletes exhibited off the field,” Jones said. “They are wonderful human beings that will continue to represent St. Joseph in the future.”
Franco is leaving St Joseph’s; he has accepted a position with a high school in New York. He is sad to leave the Jayhawks program which has seen great growth while he was at the school, and he appreciates the opportunity to have coached at St. Joseph’s the past two years and to be part of the history of the school, he said.
“Coach Franco was able to keep the players focused on their goals this year, winning our region and becoming state champions,” Jones said. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”