Long before the red card, the Dalton High School boys soccer team proved it was the better side at Harmon Field on Saturday.
The ejection of a Jonesboro player for the violation just made a mercy-rule win a lot easier for the Catamounts.
Dalton dominated the entire match in a 10-0 win over the Cardinals in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament. With the victory, the Cats move to the semifinals and will play the winner of Saturday night’s quarterfinal game between Spalding and Alexander on Wednesday back at Harmon Field.
The performance is deserving of the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A, according to Eurosportscoreboard.com’s coaches poll, or the No 1 spot in the country in maxpreps.com’s poll. Dalton (20-0), the Region 7 champs, could do anything it wanted on offense. Jonesboro (11-6-1), Region 4’s No. 4 seed, never threatened in the first half. After leading 6-0 at halftime, Cats forward Ramiro Huitanda’s third goal — and 46th of the season, which is a school record — ended the game in the 67th minute.
“It was dominant,” Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said. “It was a good effort on our part.”
Huitanda tallied the game’s first goal in the eighth minute after he flicked in a throw-in pass from Eder Mora. Alan Pantaleon scored two minutes later on a 25-yard shot from the right side to the top-left corner. Huitanda made it 3-0 in the 21st minute when his low, left-foot shot deflected off a diving Jonesboro goalkeeper and had enough back spin to luckily bounce into the net.
Javier Rodriguez’s 22nd-minute cross found Pantaleon for his second goal, and Kobe Perez’s assist to Rodriguez made it 5-0 in the 26th minute.
“Goals really break a team down,” Cheaves said. “At that point, they know it’s a matter of math. So then you wonder if they’ll even try and attack, or will they just play to hang on. We finished well.”
In the 37th minute, a Dalton shot was headed in when Jonesboro defender Solomon Tettey intentionally deflected the ball with his hand, awarding the Cats a penalty kick and resulting in a red card for Tettey. Ryan Czyz converted the PK, and Jonesboro had to finish the match playing with just 10 on the field.
But Cardinals coach Paul Cook knew the match was long gone before that loss.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the state and there’s a reason for it,” he said. “They play every position and they never stop attacking. They could be up 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. It doesn’t matter.”
In the second round, Dalton had arguably its toughest match yet, surviving 2-1 against Johnson-Gainesville.
But Saturday’s win better resembled a mid-season match than one deserving of the quarterfinals. Dalton took 22 shots, while Jonesboro had just two. The ball got used to the Cardinals’ defensive side of the field and rarely ever got near Cats goalkeeper Raymundo Bahena. The most work Dalton’s defense got was toward the end of the first half when Bahena, sweeper Saldavor Rodriguez, stopper Pepe Gardea and defenders Caleb Paniagua and Jerry Moreno played keep-away for the final three minutes.
“I actually thought it’d be an intense game, because it’s the quarterfinals,” Huitanda said. “Everybody is trying to win and reach the semifinals, but we took over.”
In the second half, Dalton showed its Harlem Globetrotters personality. Victor Solis’s goal in the 46th minute came from a seemingly impossible angle and Andres Barragan’s 47th-minute goal came off the assist from Czyz, who dribbled through a Jonesboro player’s legs to find room for the pass. Barragan’s shot in the 49th minute hit the post, but Yohan Ulloa played clean-up crew with an off-balance finish by a helpless Cardinals goalkeeper.
Dalton is one victory from playing for a state championship, and Cheaves did not brush off the ever-growing possibility of playing either Northwest Whitfield or Southeast Whitfield in the final game. The Cats have played and beaten both rivals three times this season.
“It would be interesting for sure,” he said.