This season, there’s no such thing as an easy win in Region 1.
After they faltered for the first time this season just two days prior against Weber, the Davis Darts had an opportunity to bounce back and take sole lead of the gauntlet region during Friday afternoon’s showdown with rival Farmington, who entered the afternoon as the top-ranked team in the 6A RPI.
By a score of 2-1, the Darts were able to hand the Phoenix their second loss of the season (both against Davis) and gain control of not only Region 1, but also potentially the top rank in 6A.
Davis senior Kevin Barnes — who had already shown out in the clutch for the Darts this season — drew and calmly converted a penalty kick in the 75th minute to break the 1-1 tie and give his side the crucial victory.
“You never want to win on a PK in the last five minutes, but given the way we played (all game), I thought we deserved a result like that,” Davis head coach Souli Phongsavath said.
“The way it happened wasn’t ideal, but this region’s a gauntlet and it’s always whoever can survive at the end.”
Despite not being totally thrilled with the way the victory came, the Darts were still pleased to get the win, especially after losing to Weber in a matchup that Phongsavath thought his side played well in.
“We weren’t down on ourselves at all after that loss, so yesterday’s training was light and we were having fun,” Phongsavath said.
“I’d rather play really well and not get the result than play poorly and get a result.”
Though somewhat counterintuitive, the Darts appeared to gain momentum from the loss, and it showed early in the match Friday when senior Elliot Pehrson won the ball deep in Farmington territory and booted a curling shot from 25 yards out that found the back of the net, opening the scoring.
“I picked up my head, saw the keeper off his line and was like, ‘I’m just gonna rip it,’” Pehrson said.
“My brother had told me that I just need to take (more) shots, so I just ripped it, and that was one of my first shots this season outside of the box.”
The game was just Pehrson’s second appearance in region play since recovering from a punctured lung he suffered during a collision in the team’s preseason win over Roy.
In addition to scoring the goal, Pehrson could be found at the heart of most of Davis’ best goal-scoring chances Friday.
Phongsavath said that the Darts really missed Pehrson’s presence during his absence.
“Elliot has been kind of a caged lion for us,” Phongsavath said. “He’s been aching to come back in and make a difference.
“He played really well, and we’ve been missing that dynamic No. 10 or No. 9 in our lineup since he’s been out, so I’m really proud of him for stepping up.”
Following Pehrson’s goal, the Phoenix were quick to respond. Just three minutes later, after the ball took a few deflections inside the Davis penalty area following a ball played in by Justin Bubert, Farmington’s Jaden Peterson eventually found the ball at his feet and scored to level the game at 1.
The remainder of the game was end to end from both teams as each side created multiple goal-scoring chances, but each respective backline managed to keep the chances out of the net until Barnes’ late breakthrough.
Both keepers — Davis’ Jude Walker and Farmington’s Adam Escobosa — made highlight-worthy saves at times to keep the game level.
Phongsavath praised how his defense played after conceding the goal to Farmington and the way it’s played all season-long.
“Our defense is fantastic,” Phongsavath said. “To me — and I’m obviously biased — it’s easily the best back line in the state.
“They’re great in the air, they can distribute when they have to and they’re really tough on tackles, so (defense) is definitely one of our strengths.”
Though the win had significant implications in both region standings and state rankings, that stuff took a somewhat of a backseat for the Darts, who were just happy to bounce back and complete the season sweep of their rivals.
The test, however, is far from over for Davis, which will face Syracuse next, followed by a chance at redemption against Weber on the road.
The Darts lead the race now, but the Region 1 title remains very much up for grabs.