Southeast Whitfield’s boys soccer team was in desperation mode, and Edgar Rodriguez came through in the biggest of ways.
With only seconds left and staring in the face of a 1-0 defeat, the Raiders scored a dramatic goal to tie the game 1-1 Friday night against Dalton at Harmon Field, and later won 4-2 on penalty kicks to top their Region 7-3A rivals and stay undefeated.
The matchup was a battle of undefeated and top-ranked squads. Dalton entered ranked No. 2 in 3A and Southeast is one spot lower in eurosportscoreboard.com’s most recent poll, released on Sunday.
Neither team scored in the first half, but the Catamounts (7-1, 4-1) spent much of that time on the attack.
Dalton finally put a goal in the back of the net in the 58th minute. Southeast (8-0, 6-0) goalie Abel Mendioa could not catch a shot clean and Dalton’s leading scorer, Ramiro Huitanda, picked up the pieces and put the ball in the back of the net.
“We had some injuries, and we had to bench some starters for discipline reasons,” Southeast coach Jamison Griffin said. “We knew it would be a challenge from the get-go. I think we subbed well, and I think once our guys got under control and saw that we could play with the ball, that we could handle it. This field is in great shape, but it’s going to move.”
The final 20 minutes went back and forth, and in stoppage time, Southeast had one final chance.
The Raiders had a free kick from midfield. A long ball into the Dalton goalie box was headed out for a Southeast throw-in.
A long throw back into the box went through Dalton goalie Raymundo Bahena’s hands, and Rodriguez kicked it in for a game-changing tying goal. Immediately after the ensuing kickoff, the referee called for the end of regulation time and the beginning of extra time.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Rodriguez, a senior who transferred from North Carolina and was playing in his first Southeast-Dalton game. “I have no words for this. It’s the best feeling I could ever have.”
After the teams were kept out of goal for the 10 minutes of overtime, the two headed to penalty kicks. After Southeast’s Eric Salicies scored on the first round, Huitanda’s shot went off the left post. Jorge Hurtado, Christian Lopez and Alex Garcia scored the next three attempts for Southeast, and Mendiola blocked Dalton defender Zach Keen’s shot to end the game.
The other Dalton penalty-kick takers — Alan Pantaleon and Alejandro Hernandez — scored on their attempts.
Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said his team played well, but was a bit critical of what he thought was a long stoppage time to end the game.
“We appeared to play about five minutes of stoppage time and they got a goal with about 14 seconds (left). They scored a goal and we kicked off and they called it,” Cheaves said. “But we played a really good game, and so did Southeast.”
Three Southeast players — Josue Acosta, Jamie Arenas and Christian Saenz — were suspended for the first half of the game for off-the-field disciplinary reasons, Griffin said.