Sports

May 24, 2013

Cats celebrate championship soccer season

Class 4A title winners went 22-0

A state championship is a nice accomplishment on its own, but an undefeated mark makes a team’s status elite even among the title winners.

Dalton High School’s boys soccer team is in that rare group.

Players, coaches and fans celebrated the Catamounts’ accomplishments in 2013, which included the Georgia High School Association Class 4A state title, at their season-ending banquet Thursday at the school. Such banquets are common events for athletic programs at local high schools, but it’s not common for such an occasion to be accompanied by a state championship trophy and commemorate the most dominant season possible.

“There’s a different feeling to it,” Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said of the banquet. “We had our mistakes, but in win-loss terms, we had a perfect season. ... That’s very unusual.”

So unusual that a Dalton soccer team has never done it before, Cheaves said. The Cats finished this season 22-0 and won by multiple goals in all but one game, a 2-1 victory versus Johnson-Gainesville in the second round of the state tournament.

Ramiro Huitanda re-established the program’s single-season scoring record with 51 goals this year. He shattered the mark of 35 he set in 2012. As a team Dalton scored 134 goals and allowed just eight throughout the season. Cheaves called those feats “amazing” during his speech Thursday.

The dominance was no less during the state tournament, where the Cats outscored their opposition 34-1 and ended two games short of regulation time in mercy-rule victories.

Also amazing is the company Dalton is in thanks to the goose egg in the loss column. Class 5A champion McIntosh won all 23 of its games, the only GHSA boys soccer team able to stand level with the Cats this season. Class 3A champion St. Pius X finished 19-0-2, going undefeated but not perfect.

“No other team in the past from Dalton has done this,” said Alan Pantaleon, one of 14 seniors who won’t be back for the attempted repeat. “It’s unbelievable.”

Dalton won a share of the 2003 Class 3A state championship after a 1-1 draw with Heritage-Rockdale. At the time, the GHSA didn’t settle state championship matches that ended in draws after regulation and 10 minutes of extra time. While that Dalton team finished the season with 150 goals scored — Cheaves said the GHSA’s mercy rule was at a 15-goal differential, whereas it is a 10-goal difference now — it went 19-1-1.

Cheaves once again proclaimed this team as the best in his 19 years coaching the Cats after saying as much immediately after Dalton beat Southeast Whitfield 5-0 in the title match this past Friday at the University of West Georgia.

He also said this year’s Cats lineup could match up with any school in the state and compete. Dalton was ranked No. 1 in eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 4A poll for most of the season and is currently No. 2 in maxpreps.com’s national ranking.

“I think this team right here would be in the mix,” he said when asked about a potential match with McIntosh. “It’d be a tight game. I think the way this team plays soccer would give anyone a tough match.”

Dalton’s title win against Southeast was the final chapter of the Cats’ season-long dominance against their intracounty rivals. Dalton beat Southeast four times and Northwest three times by a combined score of 22-4.

“That just shows how much work we’ve put in,” sophomore midfielder Eder Mora said. “It’s just accepting we’re the best. We’re still hyped up about it and we’re happy with what we did.

“ ... Put us against anyone and we’ll beat them.”

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