Josh Davis will hardly be underrated anymore.
After scoring 18 goals in the shadow of fellow goal-scoring seniors Andy Garcia and Miguel Laliberte, Davis now has a team-high 13 after picking up a hat trick in Monday's 5-1 win over district and in-town foe Sunlake.
"Josh Davis has been underrated since I've known him and it's a crying shame," 16th-season Gators coach Mark Pearson said. "He's a threat from anywhere he plays."
"His has it all to be a five-tool player," Pearson added, "and though this may be hard to believe, he just has to work a little on his finishing. He'll be the first to tell you he should've had that goal. His speed is second to none to anyone I've seen around here, where I think he was too fast for his own good last year and grew into it this year.
"He's an athlete who will be playing in college next year, for sure."
Looking to avenge a 1-1 tie from Nov. 16, Land O' Lakes (8-1-1, 5-0-1 Class 3A-District 7) struck first in the 14th minute when Garcia beat two defenders and put it past Seahawks keeper Brandon Jungbauer. Davis then scored quickly after the water break, also beating two defenders at the 20th minute.
"Coach said at halftime that 2-0 is the worst lead to have at the break," said Davis, who spent his first two high school seasons at King before transferring to Land O' Lakes. "Coach said we need to put the pressure on and step on their throats. I thought we did that."
Davis quickly stepped on their throats in the second half, picking up his second goal in the 43rd minute on a corner kick from Laliberte that Nathan Dalton flipped to Davis. The third goal came nine minutes later as Davis cleaned up a Dalton shot.
"I don't really celebrate goals, but when I got the hat trick, it was just like, 'OK, I got the hat trick, my second at Land O' Lakes. Let me get another one,'" Davis said. "I may not get the recognition, but (Garcia, Dalton, Laliberte, Frahm) feed the ball and I just put it back in the back of the net, knowing I'll get the recognition when I get it. I just want to play my game and not be cocky about it."
Sunlake (8-1-2, 3-1-2) picked up its lone goal in the 66th minute when Daniel Calderon put away a rebound, however, Davis also picked up an assist in the 74th minute, feeding a ball to Laliberte, who picked up his 12th goal this season.
"(Monday) wasn't a really good effort by anyone on our part — they're tired, too," Seahawks coach Sam Koleduk said. "We just want to make sure we lock up the two or three seed (for the district tournament). That's our new focus now."
Sunlake has a pivotal game against Pasco on Friday, especially since the two tied on Dec. 5, and with the Gators already beating the Pirates twice, it puts Land O' Lakes in prime position heading down a district stretch into the winter break before it hosts the district tournament starting Jan. 23.
"(Sunlake) deserves to be undefeated because that's their record coming into the game, but I said I don't think they should be undefeated," Pearson said. "This is no disrespect to them, I just thought we could've played better in the first game, but we missed opportunities as we did (Monday).
"I'm quite sure we'll see them again, so districts (tournament) is a whole different animal, where you have one game to get it done, so it's much harder in that respect."
LAND O' LAKES 5, SUNLAKE 1
Sunlake 0 1—1
Land O' Lakes 2 3—5
Goals—Calderon (S); Davis 3, Garcia, Laliberte (LOL). Assists—Davis, Baldon (LOL). Shots on goal—S 3, LOL 12. Saves—Jungbauer 3 (S); McCuen 2 (LOL). Records—S 8-1-2, LOL 8-1-1