RIVERTON For about 15 minutes, everything went according to script for Davis High when it met Region 3 champ Riverton in the opening round of the 5A boys soccer tournament.
The Darts were passing the ball extremely well, they had Riverton pinned back and they were leading 1-0, courtesy of a goal by winger Phil Hansen in the 8th minute.
Then, as Davis junior mid-fielder Gentrie Maag succinctly put it, "it was nuts."
Riverton central midfielder Nate Swank equalized with a fantastic free kick in the 16th minute, and the contest quickly transformed itself into a knock-down, drag-out fight figuratively speaking, though some spotty refereeing fortunately didn't lead to some serious altercations.
With 11 minutes to go, however, Maag came up with the knock-out punch. He toe-poked his own rebounded shot underneath Riverton's onrushing 'keeper and in, and the Darts emerged with a thrilling 2-1 win on Tuesday.
All year, the Darts have played pretty good soccer, only to have things go against them. It appeared that might be the case again on Tuesday, but they showed plenty of guts and determination to outfight a Riverton bunch that displayed the same characteristics.
"We've had to fight through adversity all season, with our slow start (and) with just not being able to finish in general," said first-year coach Souli Phongsavath. "Gentrie on the last 00goal epitomized our season right there. It wasn't pretty gettin'" it in there, but it was pure heart and hustle that got (it) there."
Davis will travel to fellow Region 1 opponent Weber in the 5A quarterfinals on Friday.
Maag's dramatic game-winner capped what was an extremely physical and hard-fought contest. Following the two early goals, both teams matched each other extremely well and it appeared extra time might be required when Maag popped up with the winner.
"Our team was just playing so hard," said Maag. "I thought Riverton was a tough team, very physical ... Halftime came up, and we were just like, 'Gotta get back in this." And we did."
Davis advanced to the semifinals a season ago and has been one of Class 5A's elite soccer programs for many years. However, Phongsavath wanted to transform the Darts into a more passing-oriented squad when he took over after last season. It's clearly taken time, but it appears that they've turned a corner.
"We're building toward something," said Phongsavath.
On the other hand, Riverton has also been building, but the Silverwolves still haven't quite managed to turn the corner when facing one of 5A's elite teams in the postseason.
Riverton came oh-so-close to doing that on Tuesday but coach Paul Moizer and Co. will instead have to wonder about "What if?" throughout the summer."We've just got to be able to get over that hump," said Moizer, "and we just haven't been able to do it."
E-mail: [email protected]