I'm proud of my boys. They hung in there. They knew they were getting the short end of the reffing stick, but they hung in there and kept their heads up. —Syracuse coach Todd Strong
SYRACUSE — Walking off the field with a tie didn't seem like much of a reward after battling a tough opponent for 100 hard-played minutes of soccer in wet, windy and cold weather conditions better suited for duck hunting than soccer.
But the Titans from Syracuse stood tall Tuesday, deservedly proud of their gritty performance after playing to a 1-1, double-overtime deadlock against a strong Davis High squad that's a perennial league and state title contender.
Syracuse (3-2-1 in Region 2, 5-4-1 overall) had to play the last 21 minutes of regulation a man down after Ntezey Swalita was sent off with a red card in the 59th minute.
And although a steady stream of calls by the officials repeatedly went against Syracuse and frustrated the home team's fans terribly, the Titans didn't ever back down or allow the officiating to affect their aggressive style of play.
"I'm proud of my boys," said Syracuse coach Todd Strong, who has worked as a soccer official himself for 15 years. "They hung in there. They knew they were getting the short end of the reffing stick, but they hung in there and kept their heads up.
"Calling that red card, I think, really hurt us. But you know what? Under these circumstances, I'm proud of the boys and I'll take the tie. ... They could've gotten down, they could've given in to the reffing, but they didn't.
"I was telling my assistant, 'If we don't have to play a man down and we get a little more equal reffing, I think we get 'em 1-0 or 2-1,' " he said. "We had our chances, but I think we gave Davis everything they could handle."
Syracuse goalkeeper Nick Wallace stopped a pair of short-range Davis free kicks late in the first half to help keep things scoreless at halftime.
Early in the second half, a shot by Syracuse's Tanner Young caromed off the left post but, in the 47th minute, a Davis player rode the Titans' Ethan Harris out of bounds deep in the box, awarding Harris a penalty kick. He promptly deposited the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Titans had a pair of great opportunities to increase their advantage, but Ramon Aparicio's shot sailed wide of the mark and another potential scoring chance was again stopped by the post.
After Swalita was red-carded, giving the Darts the man advantage, the Titans had to scramble that much more.
"We just had to fight through that," Harris said. "That was definitely a challenge, but we got together and we knew we had to get a job done and not get scored on. And with 10 players we did it, we held 'em off."
"I actually thought we outplayed 'em ever since we went down a man," Strong said. "I thought we played pretty well. I think that made (his team) dig in mentally and physically and just grit their teeth and play the rest of the way.
However, in the 67th minute, the official whistled a Syracuse player for taking down his Davis opponent in the penalty box.
The Darts' Sam McCalla capitalized, drilling the subsequent penalty kick to tie it at 1.
"Whenever you get up by a PK, you're always waiting for the equalizing PK," coach Strong said. "You're always waiting for that to come out. And sure enough, it happened."
Syracuse avoided disaster when a free kick by Davis's Marcos Diaz Robles went wide right in the 71st minute, and soon the two teams were headed for two 10-minute overtime periods.
In the first overtime, the Darts' Cade Carter was whistled for a yellow card and, when he protested too much, the official sent him off the field with a red card as well.
That meant both teams were now playing a man short, and Syracuse missed a golden opportunity for a go-ahead goal in the 86th minute when the Titans' player popped a short shot over the net after a perfect centering pass.3 comments on this story
Davis (4-1-1 in Region 2, 5-3-1 overall) had a good scoring opportunity of its own in the second overtime, but Diaz Robles' free kick was knocked away by the Titans to preserve the 1-1 tie.
"It was a good game," Harris said. "It came right down to it in overtime, and we just couldn't finish that last chance.
"Whatever the refs decide, we've still got to play through that and just play our game.
"We knew it was a big game, and we've been working hard in practices on things that will counter Davis, and I think we did it pretty good," he said. "We just have to fix a couple of things."
The two teams will tangle again in their regular-season finale May 11 at Kaysville.