LAYTON — The Davis Darts knew the stakes when they walked onto the sodden turf field at Layton High School Tuesday afternoon.
The Lancers were top in Region 1, with a 5-0 record, compared to Davis’ 4-1 mark.
The Lancers were also the defending region champions two years running, three if you count their Region 2 title back in 2017.
Then there was the fact that Layton was among the 6A classification’s state title favorites heading into the season.
Most importantly for the Darts and more important than all the above: Layton had defeated Davis in four consecutive matches, with the last Davis win coming in April 2016.
Throw in a little rivalry fun and Tuesday’s contest between Layton and Davis stood as the most important match of the Darts’ season to date.
As it turned out, it also happened to be one of their best.
Led by goal scorers Josh Harwood and Zach Kennedy, as well as a stout back four anchored by goalkeeper Noah Larkin, Davis defeated Layton 3-0.
“This is fantastic for us,” Davis (5-1-3, 5-1) head coach Souli Phongsavath said. “This is a rivalry game and (Layton) is well-coached. Also, we hadn’t beat them in a couple of years.”
Harwood netted two goals for the Darts, including a beauty from 30-plus yards out, but it was Kennedy who got the scoring started.
His goal came with just four minutes remaining in the first half, after the Darts and Lancers traded body blows on a cold and wet afternoon.
The score came off a corner kick, at least the remnants of one, as Kennedy managed to corral the ball in the box and send it into the back of the net, past Layton (8-1-1, 5-1) keeper Josh Stucki.
The goal proved a major difference in the game, from a confidence standpoint alone.
“I don’t think we’ve ever lost when we get the first goal, so we know how important that is for us,” Phongsavath said. “That has been our biggest struggle all year, putting the ball into the back of the net. Once we got that first one it gave us confidence and opened up space for us in the middle.”
From that point on, the Darts were at their best.
Defensively, they limited the Lancers' attack, making it practically nonexistent, despite the presence of players such as Eli Nixon and Tyson Siddoway.
“Our strength is our defense. That is what we focus in on,” Phongsavath said. “We knew they were crafty and very strong up top, especially out wide. We tried to funnel everything toward the middle. We overplayed the sideline and tried to make them manufacture something in the middle because that is where our strength is defensively. We tried to clog the middle, to make them do something special to beat us.”
It was Harwood, meanwhile, who was special on the other end of the field.
His first goal came three minutes into the second half, when he took a shot from well outside the 18, finding the top right corner of the net.1 comment on this story
“He has that range,” said Phongsavath. “Sometimes you don’t like him (to) shoot from that far out, but anything 35 yards and in he hits. He had one like that against Syracuse. A couple of times this season he has hit that shot. He is confident in it and we are confident in him taking.”
Harwood added his second goal on a free kick just outside the box, after Stucki was whistled for a handball.
That third goal gave the Darts their second largest margin of victory in a win this season, behind only their 4-0 victory over Syracuse on March 19.
“This is fantastic for us," Phongsavath said. “We are pretty young, with a lot of new guys playing varsity, so hopefully this win can propel us, with confidence, going forward.”