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High school football: Titan-ic defensive effort leads Syracuse to win

TJ Blickfeldt (22) of Syracuse avoids several Davis defenders as he breaks free for a long run against the Darts. The Titans' 10-9 victory over Davis clinched the No. 2 seed in Region 1 for the 5A playoffs.
TJ Blickfeldt (22) of Syracuse avoids several Davis defenders as he breaks free for a long run against the Darts. The Titans' 10-9 victory over Davis clinched the No. 2 seed in Region 1 for the 5A playoffs.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

KAYSVILLE — Syracuse linebacker Josh Gooch let out a victory roar as he ran toward his team's jubilant postgame huddle.

The junior's celebration epitomized the intensity that his defensive unit exhibited in throttling the Davis Darts throughout Friday night's game — especially in the fourth quarter.

Titan quarterback Braden Hamblin had a 1-yard touchdown dive to cap off a five-minute drive late in the game, and Josh Kealamakia's extra point was the difference as Syracuse held on to beat Davis 10-9 in an intense battle for second place in Region 1.

The Titans overcame three third-quarter fumbles in the come-from-behind win.

"In the last couple games, we've had a lot of trouble with our fourth quarters," said Gooch of the Titans defense. "We didn't want to let that happen to us anymore. We just came together as a group."

And it was on Davis' final possession after Hamblin's touchdown when Syracuse made the biggest defensive play of the game. With less than two minutes remaining and the Darts facing third-and-four, quarterback Gavin Fowler ran a play-action. But Syracuse defensive lineman Brady Green stayed at home. Green made the initial hit on Fowler, who lost the ball, and the Titans' Justin Gallegos recovered the fumble. Syracuse ran out the clock from there.

"(The defense) stepped it up. They did a great job," said Syracuse coach Russ Jones, who added that the win was emotional for defensive coordinator Dayne Faerber, a former member of the Davis coaching staff.

Syracuse opened the scoring in the first quarter on a field goal by Kealamakia, but there would be no more points until the third quarter.

The Titans had a great opportunity after T.J. Blickfeldt picked off a pass by Fowler early in the third. But four plays later, Hamblin hit Aaron Van Voris with a screen pass that Van Voris fumbled; Davis defensive back Jordan Welk recovered and took it all the way down to the Syracuse 10-yard line.

The Darts, whose defense also played a great game, cashed in with Fowler's 1-yard touchdown plunge, and Mike Jewkes' kick gave them a 7-3 lead.

Davis' other score was a safety, which turned out to be a smart play on the part of Syracuse. The Titans were forced to punt deep in their own territory; the snap went high, and punter Kealamakia dropped it. But he had the presence of mind to knock it out of bounds rather than risk a Davis player falling on it for a touchdown.

It was a penalty-ridden game, and one proved costly. Davis committed a personal foul after the Darts' punt that gave Syracuse the ball for the Titans' winning drive. The miscue gave Syracuse the ball with great position at the Davis 40. Hamblin's 22-yard pass to Blickfeldt helped set up the winning score.

Syracuse (8-2) hosts Kearns next week in playoff action, while Davis (6-4) will be on the road at Riverton.