John Taylor has a love-hate relationship with soccer.
He was walking at eight months old, and by the time he reached 18 months, he was already working on his goal-scoring technique.
Taylor has been playing soccer nonstop ever since — often to the point of exhaustion and frustration. But he never quit, and it paid off in May, as he led the Davis High boys soccer team to the state 5-A championship.
“I won’t even try to count the amount of hours I’ve spent playing soccer,” Taylor said. “Even when I was a baby, I was always kicking the ball around the house, usually off the bottom of the couch. I like to think that’s where I got my touch.”
A fine touch indeed, which helped the 17-year-old senior pump in a team-high 13 goals in 2012 and 33 for his career since making the varsity squad at Davis as a freshman.
“I almost quit soccer in ninth grade for baseball,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d have a chance at making the high school team, so when I made varsity, I got a lot of confidence from that.”
After three varsity seasons, Taylor made a grand entrance to this year’s campaign, bagging a hat trick against rival Bountiful in the opener — a game the Darts won in dominating fashion 5-0.
Almost two months later, Davis was in contention for the Region 1 championship, where a showdown with Weber High on April 24 would likely determine the region title. Unfortunately for the Darts, Weber stomped Davis 5-0 and the season seemed lost. A week later, adding insult to injury, Layton upset Davis 3-2, just before the state 5-A tournament.
But Taylor knew, as a team captain, he needed to do something to stop the bleeding.
“John and I talked about it after that (Layton) loss and we both knew the team was better than that,” said Davis coach Soulivanh Phongsavath. “We decided losing wasn’t even an option for us. Some teams are content with losses, but we weren’t going to get used to it.”
“The two days between that game and our last regular-season game against Northridge, we all got together and played volleyball to try and flip around our attitude,” Taylor said. “We usually run after losses, but this way, we were able to get rid of some of the negativity. And there was a lot of it.”
The change of routine worked.
From there, Davis rallied off five consecutive victories, including four in the state tournament, which resulted in the Darts’ second state 5-A crown in two seasons. A 1-0 win in the title game over heavily-favored Brighton — who knocked off Weber in the semifinals two days earlier — cemented Davis’ resurgence and its return to dominance.
“When we lost to Weber and Layton, we had our chances, but just couldn’t score,” Taylor said. “But in the playoffs, we figured it out and were finally able to finish on them.”
In a season filled with ups and downs, Phongsavath was simply glad to have Taylor on his side.
“When John first came in as a freshman he was a little player and he was able to contribute when called upon,” said. “His maturation process has been good and he went from a role player to leading the team, and the team really reflected John’s personality this season. He disciplined the kids and got on them if they weren’t working hard and were late to trainings.”
Less than a month after the season, Taylor is preparing for his first year of college at Utah State, but he admits he’s already missing the pitch.
“When I look back on the season, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I was ready to move on,” Taylor said. “But I wouldn’t change anything from the year, even when Weber spanked us. They can take the region championship, because those trials made it so we could take the state championship.”
For now, Taylor’s love for soccer is trumping the hate.