KAYSVILLE — Typically when a high school football team wins its region championship, one of its greatest rewards is a first-round playoff matchup on its home field against a lowly fourth-place opponent from another league.
Davis High certainly earned the home-field advantage for Friday's 5A playoff opener by running the table and going 6-0 in Region 1.
But as for that lowly fourth-place opponent part of the equation, well, guess again.
The undefeated Darts (9-0) will take on a strong Pleasant Grove squad, which was one of four teams tied for first place in a highly unlikely and perhaps unprecedented outcome in Region 4. The Vikings shared the league title with Riverton, Lone Peak and Herriman — all finishing deadlocked at 4-2 in league play.
But Pleasant Grove, whose 8-2 overall record is the best among the four Region 4 co-champions, lost the subsequent coin flip for seeding purposes and was forced to enter postseason play as the league's No. 4 seed, which makes for a mighty misleading first-round matchup on the Darts' field.
Ryan Bishop, who guided Davis to the 5A state championship in 2004, has the utmost respect for Friday's opponent and his Pleasant Grove coaching counterpart, Les Hamilton.
"Pleasant Grove had a great year and I think the world of Coach Hamilton and the job that he does," Bishop said. "They're a good football team and, of all the teams across the state, they had an opportunity to compete with everybody they played against and they're definitely one of the better 5A teams in the state.
“They’re big, they’re athletic, they’ve got some playmakers and they're well-coached, so they're going to pose some problems for whoever they play. As you watch 'em on film, they're good on the defensive side of ball, they're sound and they get after you, and they’re a complete football team. They have an 8-2 record and you’re doing something right when you win eight out of 10 games, so obviously they’re doing something right.
“The bottom line is our kids had a great season and they put themselves in a position to go into the playoffs with No. 1 seed out of our region,” Bishop said. "To go through Region 1 and put a string of games together like we did, I obviously liked how that turned out. But that’s all over and done now and we can’t sit back and pat ourselves on the back.
"It is what it is, and this is how it shook out, so now we'll just let the chips fall where they may and go play the game.”
The Darts' formula for success is really quite simple — run the football effectively and play fierce defense. And after going through the regular season undefeated, Bishop figures it'd be downright silly for Davis to suddenly start doing something differently now.
“Our thing at Davis, and we’ve kinda done this all year long, is this is Week 10 and there are certain things you try to do week to week," he said. "We'll approach it like any other game and try to play great defense, try to protect the football and go into it the way we would have gone into a game five or six weeks ago.
"Just because we’re playing a really good team and it’s the state playoffs, we’re not gonna change things up now and we know it’s an opportunity to play one more week.
“I really, really like the way our coaches have gotten our kids ready to play, and I really like the way have prepared each week," Bishop said. "We just want to continue to be disciplined and do things the right way.
“I've been at Davis High for 13 years and we've always said we’re gonna try to run the football and play good defense, and if we do those two things, we’re gonna give ourselves a chance. That’s always been our formula and there were some years when we were able to do it better than others. That's something we've tried to hang our hat on, and one thing that's for sure is this particular group has risen to the occasion week in and week out, and I really like what they’ve stood for throughout the season and the way they’ve responded."
Davis boasts the best scoring defense in all of 5A, allowing just 9.8 points per game. The Kaysville crew has given up more than seven points just four times this season, and more than 17 points only once all year.
But the Darts' defensive dominance is the product of much more than just a handful of players.
“Our kids on the defensive side of the ball have really bought into that philosophy," Bishop said. "We've come out every week and worked on making the group, the defense as an entire unit, the focal point, not one or two or three individual kids."
While defense has been their most dominant aspect, the Darts’ offense certainly isn’t any slouch, either, averaging 32 ppg, which ranks eighth-best in the 5A ranks.
Davis senior quarterback Colton Chronister has accounted for more than 2,100 yards and 21 touchdowns combined passing and rushing, while running backs Parker Rose and Mason White have combined for more than 1,200 yards and 13 TDs between them.
Meanwhile, Pleasant Grove quarterback Jeremiah Evans has thrown for 2,178 yards and 14 touchdowns, and running back TJ Wind has indeed run like the wind, gaining 1,146 yards rushing and finding the end zone 19 times.
The Davis High program, in its 98th year of existence, became the state’s leader in all-time football victories earlier this season and now has 559 to its credit after racking up the 29th region championship in school history.
But the Darts are well aware that getting that next win will be mighty difficult — especially for a first-round matchup between an undefeated region champ and an anything-but-lowly No. 4 seed.
Pleasant Grove statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 30.6 ppg (10th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 22.4 ppg (13th in 5A)
Passing leader: Jeremiah Evans (131-260, 50.4 percent, 2,178 yards, 14 TDs)
Rushing leaders: TJ Wind (210 carries, 1,146 yards, 19 TDs)
Davis statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 32.0 ppg (8th in 5A)10 comments on this story
Scoring defense: 9.8 ppg (1st in 5A)
Passing leader: Colton Chronister (113-189, 59.8 percent, 1,596 yards, 16 TDs)
Interception leaders: Matt Morrell (6)