Goal-scoring machine Davis Kendall powering Owen soccer's regional final run

James Crabtree-Hannigan
Asheville Citizen Times

Early in the second half of No. 10 Owen soccer's second-round playoff game, No. 7 Robinson had all of the momentum.

Not only had the Bulldogs cut their deficit to 2-1, but they had then saved a Davis Kendall penalty kick to remain within striking distance.

All it took was a few minutes and one long pass forward for Kendall and Owen to make things right. Kendall easily outpaced the Robinson defenders onto the ball, took a dribble and beat the goalkeeper, capping a 50-yard sprint with a goal that demoralized the home team and earned the sophomore his eighth hat trick of the season.

The goal-scoring ability on display in Kendall's four-goal performance against Robinson has produced one of the most prolific seasons ever by a WNC soccer player and powered Owen into Tuesday's regional final against Lincoln Charter, a game away from the program's first state championship appearance.

"He just ... he scores a bunch of goals," said senior midfielder Harrison Kendall, Davis' older brother. "He's always scored a bunch of a goals. That's always been the same."

CHANGES:Owen soccer making playoff run with a new coach, new tactics and new attitude

BREAKOUT STARS:Area soccer players who burst onto the scene this year

As a ninth-grader, though, Kendall missed time because of injury and shared scoring duties with Jason Gun, who's now playing at East Tennessee State.

Kendall's 23 goals and nine assists were enough to earn a second-team All-WNC nod, but without Gun to shoulder the load this season, he's had to step up even further.

Kendall enters the regional final with a school-record 45 goals in 23 games, the third-most ever by a WNC player.

"He's a machine," Owen coach Trei Morrison said. "But he works really hard on his game. He really hones his craft and takes it seriously."

While the Warhorses breezed through the Western Highlands portion of the schedule, Kendall has proven his totals aren't merely the result of facing overmatched conference teams.

He tallied against Asheville High, West Henderson, Brevard and other top nonconference teams on Owen's schedule, and his production has carried into the playoffs.

He's scored 10 of the Warhorses' 14 postseason goals, making the most of chances that haven't always been plentiful as the competition increases.

"Coach always tells me to patient, and they're coming," Kendall said after scoring twice against Patton in the third round. "That's the No. 1 thing he told me at the beginning of the season."

Morrison also emphasized the importance of making sure other players stay involved, not wanting them to sit back and watch Kendall or midfielder Elijah Caro (20 goals, 15 assists) make individual plays.

It paid off against Patton, with multiple goals coming thanks to an Owen player following his teammate into the box and keeping pressure on the defense.

Kendall's pair of goals, though, were clean strikes — one after deftly turning to shield the ball from a defender at the top of the box, and another on a breakaway down the flank.

Those are the opportunities he's been ruthlessly efficient at turning into goals this year, and with one or two more moments of magic Tuesday, Owen may be playing for a state championship.

"Playing alongside him is such a joy, and it honestly makes the job easier for me," midfielder Daniel Garcia said. "I know, if I pass him the ball, he is going to do whatever it takes for him to score a goal."