They will be introduced for Saturday’s Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Boys Soccer Classic as representatives of the Peach State.
But with the exception of one player, it will be Whitfield County’s team.
The Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Classic series, which features recent high school graduates in battles for border bragging rights, pulls players from up to a dozen counties in northwestern Georgia and as many in southeastern Tennessee for its annual games.
However, 17 of the 18 representing Georgia in this year’s boys soccer game are from either Dalton, Northwest Whitfield or Southeast Whitfield high schools, and they will try to spread the area’s dominance beyond state lines when they take on the Volunteer State at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
The boys game follows the girls all-star contest, which starts at 1:30 p.m.
Following the boys game, the Chattanooga Football Club will take on the Knoxville Force at 7:30 p.m.
Fans can watch all three games for $5.
The Chattanooga Football Club match will be a “Pink Out” to support breast cancer awareness. Players will wear jerseys that will later be auctioned to benefit Memorial Health Care System’s MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, and fans are encouraged to dress in the color to show support.
In the boys game, Dalton will have nine players, the most of any school from either side. The Catamounts’ representatives are goalkeepers Raymundo Bahena and Chris Monroig; defenders Marcos Ruiz, Jerry Moreno and Rogelio Mentado; midfielders Andres Barragan, Daniel Palacios and Jose Plaza; and forward Alan Pantaleon. Northwest has five players on the roster — forwards David Perez and Giovanni Aguero, midfielders Cielo Nunez and Christian Perez, and defender Damian Lara — and Northwest coach Ryan Scoggins is also coach of Team Georgia. Southeast Whitfield’s Erik Salaises, a forward, and midfielders Alex Rosillo and Jorge Hurtado are also on the team.
Heritage-Catoosa’s Josh Smotherman, a midfielder, is the only other player on the roster.
“When they asked me to be the coach, I initially sent out an email to all the boys soccer coaches I could think of in Northwest Georgia from the Rome area and on up,” Scoggins said of the process for filling his roster. “I had a couple coaches who sent back which of their players had graduated. Then I sent out a message to all those guys. I think I had 28 names.
“I knew from all those names, we couldn’t keep all 28. They only allowed us 18 slots. So me and (Dalton assistant) coach Jim Wickes decided it would be easiest to bring them in and have a tryout. On that initial day, only 15 guys showed up for the tryout. So we decided to go with those 15 guys and then picked up (three) more along the way.”
Scoggins wouldn’t speculate whether the team would be as stocked with players from inside Whitfield County if more showed up for the tryouts and he and Wicks were forced to cut players. But he admitted there still would have been quite a few area players who made the team.
“Obviously, our local area is very talented,” Scoggins said, “and I would’ve expected it to be well represented on this team regardless.”
There’s a reason for that. Dalton, Northwest and Southeast made up three-fourths of the semifinals field in the Georgia High School Association’s Class 4A state tournament this spring. Southeast beat Northwest 2-0 in overtime in the semifinals, while Dalton beat Spalding 7-0 to set up its finals matchup with the Raiders. Dalton won its second state title via a 5-0 win against Southeast.
From this high school season alone, the 17 players from inside Whitfield County are used to going against one another. The three teams played a combined 10 games among themselves. Dalton, which finished 22-0 and with the No. 1 ranking in eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 4A poll and maxpreps.com’s national poll, beat Southseast four times and Northwest three times. In three meetings, Southeast beat Northwest twice.
“If you were to put an all-star team together of guys just in this Northwest Georgia area — and throw in Rome and Calhoun, perhaps — and wow,” Southeast head coach Kevin Kettenring said. “Just put them on the field. These guys are exciting. I just think the talent is there.”
The team will practice today for the fourth time since forming. Scoggins said it is a treat to watch players from different schools on the same team.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” he said. “Just seeing these guys go through drills and playing with each other, it has been a really cool thing to see. I have been here coaching against most of them for the past few years, so it’s nice seeing all these guys blend their talents well together.”
Tennessee leads the series 6-1, including a 2-1 win last year.
In the girls match, Dalton’s Ale Salaises and Northwest’s Paige Smyth and Selena Gomez are on the roster for Team Georgia, which will be led by LaFayette coach Whitney Stinson. She will be the first Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Classic series participant — in any sport — to both play and coach in one of the games. Stinson played for Georgia in the inaugural girls soccer matchup in 2004.
Tennessee’s girls lead the series, 5-1-1, with the lone tie a 1-1 stalemate a year ago.
The annual summer series started this past Saturday with the all-star football game, which Tennessee won 10-7. Tuesday’s basketball matchups were split, with Tennessee’s girls winning 66-57 and Georgia’s boys winning 76-74 in overtime.
Remaining are all-star matchups for baseball (6 p.m. Tuesday at Ridgeland High School in Rossville) and softball (6 p.m. Wednesday at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga).
Stump Martin, the Classics’ creator, was a reporter for the Chattanooga News-Free Press and Chattanooga Times Free Press for 19 years and also was on ESPN Radio’s 105.1 The Zone in Chattanooga. He is managing editor of Friday Night Football Live Tennessee and co-owner of Tennessee’s high school Rivals.com website, TNVarsity.com. He has hosted “Stump on Sports Late Nite,” a live sports television show, for nearly 30 years.