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May 13, 2013

A Look Ahead: The dominant sport

Success on the pitch proving county’s talent

This couldn’t happen in any other sport. But in this area, soccer is becoming THE sport.

For the past week and a half, three high school teams in Whitfield County have steamrolled through competition, save one close win for each. Dalton, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield each has won three games since May 3 and now are in the Class 3A state tournament semifinals.

The area’s soccer prowess will receive a heavy bulk of attention between now and Wednesday’s semifinals matches. Northwest and Southeast will play one another in one semifinals match in Tunnel Hill, while Dalton hosts Spalding, which must feel like the odd man out, in the other. Game times should be decided between all of the schools today.

That’s three schools from a 14-mile radius making up 75 percent of one classification’s final four teams. And this isn’t Atlanta. Or Macon. Or Augusta. Or Columbus. Or Savannah. Or Albany. When you use Google Maps, and each city has a circle marker with its size signifying how big the city is, Dalton has the smallest circle.

Last year, after four teams reached the quarterfinals in their respective classes, I opined about how soccer’s prevalence was rising in the area. The sport was becoming one of the best for the area, and the area was becoming one of the best for the sport.

I probably was behind on the times. Or I was just being nice to the other sports.

Now?

Soccer is No. 1. Sorry, football. Sorry, basketball. Sorry, baseball. Each of you had just one team advance past the first round, and the second round was the best any of you could do. I don’t see a reality where you’d have three teams ever reach the semifinals, regardless of whether it’s the same classification or not.

But on the more positive note, I don’t see any other area — aside from Atlanta, which has a bajillion schools and doesn’t count — with this much success. And I don’t see any of the other 158 counties in Georgia with it, either.

The other remaining teams from the six classifications are: First Presbyterian Day (Macon); The Paideia School (Atlanta); Hebron Christian Academy (Dacula); Savannah Christian; Lovett (Atlanta); Westminster (Atlanta); Greater Atlanta Christian; Calhoun; Woodward Academy (Atlanta); East Hall (Gainesville); St. Pius X (Atlanta); Oconee County (Watkinsville); Spalding (Griffin); Houston County (Warner Robbins); Starr’s Mill (Fayetteville); Pope (Marietta); McIntosh (Peachtree City); Berkmar (Lilburn); East Cowetta; Collins Hill (Suwanee); and Harrison (Kennesaw).

Welcome to Whitfield County, a soccer area with a football obsession.

• What a perfect transition!

Spring practices wrap up this week with a slew of spring games scheduled for Friday.

But the funny thing is, this could be the last year all schools have spring practices and games.

At the Georgia High School Association’s state executive committee meeting from April 15, a motion was passed allowing teams to pick whether they want spring practices or a second preseason scrimmage.

According to the meeting minutes, the motion requires schools to choose by Feb. 1 of each year whether they want 10 days of spring practice, including a spring game, or the second scrimmage against another school. Right now, each team has a preseason scrimmage a week or two prior to the start of the regular season.

The motion takes effect next spring and for the 2014 season, so this week might not be as football-filled a year from now.

For each local school’s spring game time, read the prep schedule on Page 3B.

Devin Golden is a sports writer with The Daily Citizen. Got something you think should be in A Look Ahead? Contact him at devingolden@daltoncitizen.com.

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