Tippecanoe’s boys soccer team was not surprised to be at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday playing for the Division II state championship.
“We said all year we were going to do it,” said senior defender Aaron Davis.
That Davis would be on the field let alone be the hero?
“The kid’s been cursed,” said Red Devils head coach Scott Downing.
But there was Davis, coming off the bench and playing in only his fifth game this season. A torn meniscus in track season was supposed to cause him to miss soccer season. And just when he was about to make it back he caught pneumonia. He saw limited time in two regular-season games before an ankle sprain courtesy of a practice field sprinkler head benched him again.
“No one’s got the determination that kid does,” said senior teammate Jake Rowland.
Late in the second half, Tipp’s Owen Hadden fired a throw-in from the right sideline into the box. The ball bounced around until it was in front of Davis – a defender’s dream. He didn’t let the ball settle, kicking it off the bounce, deflecting it off a defender’s leg and into the net for his third goal of the season, a 1-0 victory over Warren Howland and Tipp’s first soccer state championship.
“I just saw it right in front of me and I knew I had to finish it … for my family,” he said as he turned and looked at his teammates. “I just can’t believe it right now.”
Did Davis ever imagine he would score the only goal in the state final?
“No … no, not at all,” he said. “I was thinking of my team the entire time. It’s insane how hard we’ve worked all year.”
Rowland was in the penalty-kick area and had a great view of Davis’ goal.
“It went behind me, my back was to the goal and I turned and I just saw him kick it and it deflected right into the back corner,” Rowland said. “That goalie had no chance.”
John Baileys and Keaton Jackson were credited with assists.
“He’s good at getting in that back side and being in the right place at the right time,” Downing said of Davis. “And he’s good at being composed.”
Rowland, who had scored game-winners in Tipp’s two most recent victories, didn’t care that a teammate got the winner this time. He said he felt no added pressure to be the guy.
“It’s great to know we’re a team together and not just one person’s going to do it,” he said.
Howland came in with a reputation as a defensive team. Tipp controlled most of the play, especially in the second half.
“As the half went on we were controlling it more and getting more and more chances … something’s got to fall for us,” Downing said.
Davis’ rehab and setbacks did not discourage him for long. He said his family and teammates kept him positive.
“They told me I was probably going to miss the entire soccer season,” he said. “I was not going to let that happen my senior year.”
Downing has been Tipp’s coach for 15 seasons and has a record of 259-63-52. The Red Devils had not been to the state semis since 1989, 1990 and 1992. Downing played on the ‘89 and ‘90 teams. As happy as he is for his players, the school, the community and the fans, he felt a little extra happiness for Davis.
“The goal made up for all that time sitting there,” he said. “He’s got to be elated about that … I am.”
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