SYRACUSE — With a little more than three minutes remaining, Davis sent out its punting troops.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Darts held a seven-point lead over Syracuse.
Davis' punt twirled slightly past midfield into the welcoming arms of Syracuse's Daunte Atkinson. This was finally the opportunity the defending Region 1 champs needed.
Atkinson advanced the ball to the Davis 46-yard line before initial contact. As his momentum carried him to the grass, Davis' Aaron Becker cleanly pickpocketed him with nothing but lonesome awaiting. Becker's ensuing 54-yard touchdown ultimately sealed the Darts' 21-7 win Thursday night.
“I was proud of our kids,” Davis coach Ryan Bishop said. “To have that happen at the end like that, I mean — that’s craziness. That’s high school football at its best right there. Anything can happen any play.”
Becker remained speechless.
“I don’t know — it just happened,” he said with a soft-spoken smile.
The win positioned Davis (4-0) atop the Region 1 ladder — potentially for the remainder of the season — but Bishop and Co. approached Thursday's bout simply as another night under the lights.
“I told our kids all week, 'This is just Week 4,' and I still believe that. But I’m happy for them because this is a good football team,” Bishop explained. “For us to show the type of resolve that we did, especially when we didn’t play very well in the first half, to finish it the way we did is big. I’m happy for our kids.”
Entering Thursday, it was unknown how Davis would handle the fourth quarter in a one-possession ballgame. The Darts hadn’t been tested throughout the 2013 campaign, with comfortable wins in each of their first three games. Syracuse, on the other hand, had experienced ample amounts of close calls during the short season.
“You schedule your preseason games, and you play whoever is on your schedule,” Bishop. “For us to handle a real gut-check game like this was big for them. I hope that we can use that down the stretch. In this region it’s not going to be the only game like this.”
Syracuse (3-1) took an early 7-0 lead on a 4-yard strike from Kole Tracy to Josh Thalman after a shanked punt flipped the field. Shortly thereafter, Davis notched things up when Colton Chronister escaped the pocket and feathered a 9-yard touchdown pass to Abel Porter with 7:37 left in the half.
“We just tried to get a little rub going on in the inside and Colton threw the ball up to me perfectly,” said Porter, who sustained an injury late and will undergo an X-ray on his shoulder.
With both defenses stifling every option, the two offenses took fairly rudimentary, conservative approaches. It remained that way until Davis implemented an up-tempo pace in the second half. Keeping the Titans off-balanced, the Darts used the added bounce to establish the run.
With 1:34 in the third, the Darts moved just outside of field-goal range. On fourth-and-3, Parker Rose converted on a speed-option. Two plays later, Porter plunged in to give the Darts a 14-7 lead.
“Our kids make plays when they need to,” Bishop said. “I hope we can get better on that side of the ball because when we play defense and find ways to improve our run game, I hope we give ourselves a chance for success every week. “