Three soccer programs from Whitfield County — Dalton, Northwest and Southeast — dominated the Georgia High School Association’s Class 4A state tournament this past spring, filling three of the final four spots in the playoffs before Dalton emerged as the state champion over Southeast.
The way the season played out proved on the high school level what those around northwest Georgia have long known about the quality of the area’s soccer.
Recently, two area teams proved that the talent coming up is going to be just as good.
Two teams representing the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department recently captured Georgia Recreation and Park Association state championships. Athletico Dalton won the GRPA Under-10 division in Jefferson, and Valladolid took the Under-12 division in Thomasville, with both tournaments played the first weekend of December.
“You better be watching these kids in the upcoming years, especially when they get to high schools,” said Athletico Dalton coach Jose Chavarria.
“They have a lot of talent, and if we keep supporting them, they will be bringing home state titles for a while.”
Before their state tournaments, both teams played in the “competitive” soccer division overseen by the DPRD. The division was created for a higher level of youth soccer outside of traditional recreational play.
Chavarria, who has two sons on the U10 state championship team, said most of the players on his team started playing when they were 4 years old.
But the team has only been together since the competitive soccer division began play in October. After dropping its first game, the Athletico Dalton team won 17 straight, including titles in three tournaments.
“They have a lot of talent for their age,” Chavarria said. “You could tell that by us winning three tournaments in a short amount of time. There is so much talent throughout this area, and it is just getting better and better.”
Both teams played in the GRPA District 5 tournament in Dalton, beating out all-star teams from Murray County, Calhoun, Bartow County, Bremen, Rockmart and Gilmer County. At the state tournament, the DPRD teams beat out teams from Columbia County, Troup County, Wayne County and Putnam County.
Chavarria said the support from the community has changed over the years.
“The high schools in Dalton and Whitfield County, if the coaches know what they are doing, there will be a lot of success with the talent throughout that is coming up,” Chavarria said. “They will have more state championships. When I was a teenager in Dalton, we didn’t have the support, and hopefully they will keep supporting it. It represents the area real well.”
Members of the U10 Athletico Dalton team are Barcena Adrian Capistran, Jose Noe Chavarria, Romeo Alexander Chavarria, Saul Cruz, Gerardo Yared Favela, Ernesto Alfonso Garcia, Jahyr Juan Garcia, Kendrick Landaverde, Kenley Alexander Landaverde, Erick Anthony Lemus, Jason Martinez, Gerardo Mendoza, Jose Manuel Mendiola, Angel Daniel Salaises and Brandon Saldana.
Members of the Valladolid U12 team — which was coached by Hugo Alvarado — are Hugo Rene Alvarado, Mateo Althouse, Ricardo Bahena, Adrian Barragan, Rene Cuna, Michael Josue Lopez, Owen Jesus Morales, Fabian Navarro, Yahir Paez, Jonas Paniagua, Miguel Perez, Manuel Prieto, Daniel Quintero, Alexander Zamudio Ubas and Yahir Zapata.