By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
COLUMBUS — Aaron Davis had no idea he was going to be the one.
Not when the game started. Not throughout a scoreless first half. Even as the ball landed at his feet with the open goal in front of him. And especially not back when the season began.
“No, no, not at all,” the Tippecanoe senior said. “I was thinking of my team the entire time. It’s insane how hard we’ve all worked this year. I’m just so proud of this team.”
But that’s exactly who he ended up being in Sunday’s Division II state championship boys soccer game, as, after fighting his way back from a number of severe injuries and a mountain of adversity, he became the one who scored the game-winning goal — the only goal — in the Red Devils’ 1-0 victory over Warren Howland to propel the program to its first ever state title.
Before the Red Devils ever set out on their 23-0-1 campaign that culminated to the team’s first state championship, Davis was told he wasn’t going to be able to be part of it at all — and he wasn’t having any of it.
“During track season last year, I tore my meniscus,” Davis said. “And they told me that I was probably going to miss the entire soccer season. And I was not going to let that happen my senior year.”
But after rehabbing his was back from that injury enough to get back onto the field, he hit even more setbacks.
“As soon as I was starting to feel better about halfway through the season, I got pneumonia,” Davis said. “And then I sprained my ankle — that’s why I’m wearing a brace here.”
Coming into Sunday’s matchup, Davis had two goals this season — one against Wayne on Sept. 19 and one against Indian Lake on Oct. 15, both of them 7-0 Tippecanoe wins. It wasn’t until the regional tournament that Davis began to play full time again, though.
“Three. I’ve played in three games,” Davis said. “I played in a couple of regular season games for about 10 minutes, because my coaches care about me and didn’t want me to get hurt.”
“The kid’s been cursed,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Downing said. “He comes back from an ACL tear, and then he gets pneumonia just as he gets back to playing. Then he came back and … he’s had so many injuries this year, I forget what came after that. It was special for him to get that game-winning goal.”
Davis’ score came with 12:27 left to play in the game. After a throw-in went into the Howland box, the ball deflected off a number of players before finally landing in front of Davis. And with Howland’s goalie screened by a handful of Devils and his own defenders, Davis one-timed it off of a hop and sent it into the corner of the net for the game’s only score. Jonny Baileys and Keaton Jackson each were credited with an assist on the play.
“It’s crazy. No one’s got the determination that that kid does,” fellow senior and one of the two team captains Jake Rowland said of Davis. “He was out there working every day. I know other people that tore their ACL around the same time as him, and they’re still going through the process. To see him come out here and put in the only goal, it’s crazy.”
Through all of it, though, Davis was never alone.
“My family was very supportive and never let me have a negative mindset,” Davis said. “That really helped me out. And my team is so supportive. It’s just crazy. It’s not just me — it’s the entire team. We all did it.
“It feels great. It’s an unbelievable feeling. This was our goal all season, to win state. We said all year that we were going to do it. And, well, we did it.”
“After him sitting and watching his friends play while he went through all of that recovery, this makes up for it,” Downing said. “I think that goal made up for all that time sitting there. He’s got to be elated about that. I know I am.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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