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WOODS CROSS — Mighty Davis may have been a big favorite when it stepped on the field for its 5A semifinal match against underdog Granger, but the Darts knew they absolutely needed to play well to make the clock strike midnight on the Cinderella Lancers.
In the final analysis, saying that Davis played well may be an understatement.
The Darts didn't finish their scoring chances tremendously well, but against a team that had stunned the rest of the state to advance to the semis, virtually every other aspect of their game was flawless from start to finish.
Jake Mcrae put Davis ahead in only the 3rd minute, defender Dallin Hart added a huge second goal in the 28th minute and Abinadi Samayoa killed the game off with a clutch third goal in the 45th minute as No. 3 Davis beat Granger 3-0 to cruise into Thursday's championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I told the kids yesterday, 'I'm pretty sure that no team has ever made it to the finals without winning a semifinal game,' and so we wanted to focus on this game," said Davis coach Souli Phongsavath. "I know Rio Tinto is a great place to think about, but we didn't want to think about it until we actually took care of business.
"And the kids did that, and I can't say enough about them and their effort."
With Granger out of the way, Davis' players can all turn their attention to Rio Tinto Stadium and a date with Fremont Thursday night at 7 in what will be an all-Region 1 championship game.
From the time the referee blew his whistle to start Tuesday's semifinal against Granger until the time he blew his whistle to end it, Davis' players played well, knowing they couldn't let the Lancers, who had stunned top-ranked Alta in the quarterfinals last week, get going.
Mcrae helped make sure they never did.
Talented midfielder John Taylor sent a free kick toward the box in the 3rd minute, and Mcrae majestically rose and nodded the ball beyond Granger's goalie and just inside the right-hand post.
From there, Davis played well and carried the majority of the play before Hart scored from point-blank range in the 28th minute and then Samayoa essentially settled matters with his team's third goal five minutes into the second half.
"I thought we deserved a lot more than a 1-nil lead we had for most of the game. We had a couple of really prime opportunities to score, we had a couple of 1v1s we didn't finish, and if anything, that's what I take from this game is that we weren't very clinical on our finishing," said Phongsavath. "But to get that second goal right there was huge because they're here for a reason and we knew they had a lot of heart and they would never give up. So we didn't want to put the game within their reach.
"(And) when we got that third goal, it was huge because rarely do teams come back from three goals. Maybe two, but (three) was a good for us to put distance."
Once that distance had been established, Phongsavath got most of his starters off the field, including star striker Casey Black, who failed to score for just the third game this spring.
Black failed to finish some chances before he was taken out and was understandably disappointed to have not scored, but he pointed out afterward that his teammates more than picked up the slack around him.
"These last playoff games have just proven that yeah, I had so many goals on the season, but look at how the team can respond when I can't do anything," said Black. "When I get marked down, the team can step up and that's when everything opens up and everybody else has the opportunity to shine because we all love being with each other and we have the chemistry to be able to give it to everybody."
The Darts gave it to Granger, and now they'll look to give it to Fremont in front of what should be a frenzied crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium Thursday night.