Northwest Whitfield High School’s boys soccer team was one play away from drawing even.
One play was all Dalton’s Andres Barragan needed to turn the Bruins’ hope into despair.
Barragan’s shot in the 70th minute of Thursday’s game became the insurance goal the Catamounts wanted, and it gave Dalton the 3-1 win it needed in what was essentially the Sub-region 7B-4A championship match on Northwest’s home field.
Ramiro Huitanda’s goal in the 50th minute gave the Cats (12-0, 5-0) a 2-0 lead and put the Bruins (9-2, 4-1) in a position where they had to do something no other team has done this season — score twice against Dalton.
Additionally, Northwest hadn’t created much offense to that point, taking just four shots.
“Our defenders were doing a good job heading it back up field,” Cats coach Matt Cheaves said.
In the 59th minute, the Bruins’ Bryan Villa was fouled by Eder Mora and the center referee ruled it happened just inside the penalty box. Christian Perez converted the penalty kick and half of Northwest’s task was complete. But Dalton won possession in the midfield, Barragan received a pass and dribbled to just outside the goalie box. His low strike hit inside the left post and found the net.
“It does deflate you,” Bruins coach Ryan Scoggins said. “Our guys didn’t mail it in. They were playing hard. But when it’s 3-1 with 10 minutes left, you’ll really need some breaks to happen.”
Dalton beat Northwest 6-1 when they faced off in a non-league match at Harmon Field earlier this season, and both teams could play at least two more times this season. The first would be in the championship round of the eight-team Region 7-4A tournament — set to begin April 16 — and the second potential matchup would be in the state tournament.
Dalton owns the sub-region’s No. 1 seed for the region tournament bracket, while Northwest has a No. 2 seed and Southeast is in the No. 3 slot. Winners in the first round earn a state berth.
“These (rivalry) games are always physical,” Barragan said. “We’ve known these guys since we were little. We’ve played against them and with them. It’s very intense.”
The Bruins only had eight shots in the match, while the Cats had 18. Dalton also had 23 set plays — free kicks, corner kicks or deep throw-ins — and scored the game’s first goal off one in the fourth minute. Pepe Gardea’s long throw-in toward the goal wasn’t cleared on the first and second try, and Ryan Czyz was fortunate enough to get a strike on the ball and into the net.
“They’re going to earn goals, but they’re also going to take advantage of any mistakes you make,” Scoggins said.
Northwest’s two best chances in the first half were from David Perez’s 18th-minute shot that hit the crossbar and Christian Perez’s 33rd-minute shot on a free kick that Dalton goalkeeper Raymundo Bahena tipped over the goal.
Bahena made four saves, while Northwest’s Miguel Deanda had five.
• Northwest girls 1, Dalton 0: Juliana Gomez’s cross in the 62nd minute found Nancy Paz’s foot right in front of the goal and gave the Lady Bruins (7-1, 4-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) the game’s only score.
The Lady Cats outshot their opponents 13-9. In the 51st minute, Dalton (4-5, 2-3) had its best chance to score as a shot got past goalkeeper Gracie Holmes, but defender Paige Smyth cleared the ball just before it crossed the line.
“That saved me from a heart attack,” said Northwest coach Anna Stutts, whose team finishes second in the sub-region after beating local rivals Dalton and Southeast. “We’re trying to get in their heads that you are good soccer players. People look at records, but I try to tell them that they have skill.”
Holmes made six saves, while Lady Cats keeper Maria Medina made five.
“I can’t be disappointed,” Dalton coach Tony Carlson said. “Their effort the whole game, but particularly in the second half, kept Northwest very off balance in defense.”
• North Murray boys 2, Sonoraville 2 (5-4): Mountaineers goalie Manuel Gonzalez scored the clinching penalty kick in the shootout and had eight saves to keep North Murray undefeated in Region 5-3A play.
Alexis Solorzano scored in the first half off of an assist from Tony Maldonaldo to tie the game 1-all, and Ismael Cruz scored in the second half to take the lead. But Sonoraville knotted it by converting a penalty kick after a handball in the box to send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless overtime, Sonoraville missed its first penalty kick in the shootout, while North Murray (9-1, 9-0) converted all five of its shots.
• North Murray girls 6, Sonoraville 2: The Lady Mountaineers won their first game of the year as Jessica Rangel led the way with a pair of goals.
Keeper Amber Bandy went out with an injury near the end of the first half with her team trailing 2-1, and coach Justin Frazier said his team rallied for the injured player. Valeria Lazo took over in goal and had eight saves in the second half.
Megan Pittman and Olivia Diaz each had a goal and two assists, while Jesinia Gaspar added a goal for North Murray (1-8, 1-8 Region 5-3A).
• Morris Innovative boys 1, Chattooga 0: Luis Perez scored the game’s only goal, with Felipe Barrientos getting the assist as the Tigers (6-6, 5-6 Region 7-2A) won at Harmon Field.
• Chattoga girls 4, Morris Innovative 1: The Lady Tigers (0-12, 0-11) got their lone goal from Alejandra Hernandez.
• Results from Murray County’s boys and girls games against Model were not reported by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.