May 13, 2014

Big step

Southeast travels, Dalton hosts in semis

The boys soccer team at Gainesville’s Johnson High School has connections to the programs at both Dalton and Southeast Whitfield where the state playoffs are concerned.

With Southeast, it’s obvious — the Knights will host the Raiders at 6:30 tonight in the Class 4A semifinals. With the Catamounts, one has to rewind to a year ago and the toughest match Dalton endured in its run to the championship.

Dalton and Southeast are each one win from meeting for the second year in a row in the Class 4A state title match, which will be played at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Kennesaw State University.

Standing in the way of Region 7 champion Dalton (20-0-1) is Region 4 winner Spalding (16-2-1), which will visit the Cats’ Harmon Field at 7 tonight in the other semifinal.

Dalton beat Southeast 5-0 in last year’s Class 4A championship to finish the season 22-0. The Cats’ closest match in 2013 — and the only one decided by a goal — was their 2-1 win over Johnson in the second round of the state playoffs.

Dalton and Johnson (20-1), the Region 8 champion, have traded the No. 1 and 2 spots in the’s Class 4A rankings for much of the season. Dalton is currently first and Johnson is second, while Spalding is fourth and Southeast (14-5-2) is eighth.

“They’re very similar,” Southeast coach Kevin Kettenring said of Johnson compared to his Raiders and Dalton. “They’re quick, possess well out the back and have a lone sweeper. They have really quick forwards that put defenders under a lot of pressure.”

Dalton is undefeated in 43 consecutive matches, with the only draw a 2-2 result earlier this season against Dobyns-Bennett of Kingsport, Tenn. The Cats and Raiders have played seven times during the past two years, with Dalton winning each match by at least two goals, but Dalton and Johnson have faced off only once.

If the Cats beat Spalding tonight, then the state championship will showcase what should be a highly anticipated rematch one way or another.

Dalton coach Matt Cheaves couldn’t be upset about a whole lot following his team’s 10-0 destruction of Perry in Friday’s quarterfinals.

How will that translate to the next round?

“I think it’s important for us to recognize the things we did well,” he said. “We just have to talk about it and make sure mentally that we’re prepared to go into the game and stay positive no matter what happens.”

Cheaves said Sunday evening he hadn’t received much of a scouting report on Spalding. But awareness of the other team’s capabilities might not be that important if Dalton is at its best. In eight playoff matches the past two years, Dalton has won four by mercy rule (leading by 10 goals or more) and all but last year’s Johnson match were won by at least three goals. In this year’s state playoffs, the Cats have outscored opponents 24-1.

Those lopsided results can frustrate opponents, and Cheaves has been proud of his team’s calmness late in contests.

“There were a couple times our opponent got chippy and fouled,” he said of the match with Perry, “and I thought we did a good job keeping our heads level and staying focused.”

Southeast, the Region 7 runner-up, is the only non-region champion remaining in the Class 4A bracket. But that hasn’t stopped the Raiders from outscoring their opponents 9-1 through the first three rounds and defeating a region champion. They topped Region 2 No. 1 seed Statesboro 1-0 in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“It’s the semifinals,” Kettenring said. “The winner goes on and the loser thinks, ‘Man, we almost made it but didn’t.’

“That’s a lot of hard work not to make the final, but we’re planning on making it and surprising them.”

Southeast isn’t new to playing above expectations. The Raiders made last year’s title match as a No. 3 seed after upsetting rival Northwest Whitfield, last year’s Region 7-4A runner-up to Dalton, in the 2013 state semifinals.

The match with Johnson could be just as dramatic as that 2-0 victory against the Bruins, which required overtime to decide who was moving on.

Southeast sweeper Isael Gutierrez said the Raiders are aware of the talent Johnson has.

“As a team, we knew when Johnson won that it’d be a heck of a game,” he said. “As players, we have to worry about Johnson-Gainesville first. We (said) after the States-boro game to worry about Johnson. It’s basically the championship for us.”

Text Only
  • SE fball conditioning 1 mlh.jpg Prep football: Raiders enter preseason hoping for breakthrough

    Entering his third year as Southeast Whitfield High School’s football coach, Sean Gray believes the last obstacle is belief.
    He believes this group of Raiders has that quality.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Devin Golden: Other sports start practice this week

    Football isn’t the only high school sport during the fall — and the others are joining in this week.

    July 28, 2014

  • Three locals on NW team in state golf event

    Three local golfers — Hardin Chambless, Tori Owens and Landon Painter — played Sunday in round one of the Junior Sectional Challenge Match.

    July 28, 2014

  • DHS fball condition#1C0E6F8.jpg Prep football: Dalton enters camp well ahead of learning curve

    The joke came quick to the lips of Dalton High School football coach Matt Land when asked how the opening day of conditioning for the Catamounts went on Friday.
    “We can quit and go home,” Land said. “They have it all figured out.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hall of Fame Baseball_Chan.jpg Making a trip into town

    Frank Thomas was always driven to excel, and that sure served him well.
    “I was never that blue-chip prospect,” he said. “I had to outwork my opponents.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hall of Fame Baseball_Chan2.jpg Chris Whitfield: Memories stay with us, and go with them

    I still remember the pandemonium that broke out in the dorm at Middle Georgia College in tiny Cochran, Ga., the night of “The Slide” in the 1992 National League Championship Series. It was a fire drill, wall street-buying frenzy and a Roman toga party all in one.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Deshawn Ruffin Sign#1C0E79A.jpg Dalton State College signs PG from Florida

    Dalton State College announced signing a Jacksonville, Fla., prep basketball standout to its men’s basketball team.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • DHS vs RHS fball xtra 7 mlh.jpg Totally focused on fútbol

    In order to chase his soccer dream and continue to mature and improve in the sport that he loves so much, Dalton High School athlete Eder Mora has decided to make a sacrifice — giving up football.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • Whitfield, Chris.JPG Chris Whitfield: Football fans may lose, but Mora will win with decision

    Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to see some of the finest athletes this state has ever produced. From professional athletes who went on to the NFL, MLB and the NBA to college washouts who still rank as the finest high school athletes I have ever seen, I have been blessed.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • CHS fball conditioning 6 mlh.jpg Christian Heritage enters camp with many questions to answer

    In the first day of conditioning for local high school football teams, Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag didn’t decide any of the position battles that his team faces this year after losing a strong senior class.
    But there will be plenty of those battles to come.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo