May 4, 2014

Devin Golden: How much brighter can soccer shine?

For each of the past three high school boys soccer seasons, the bar has been set a little bit higher in terms of area-wide success.

In 2012, a record number (four) of teams from Murray and Whitfield counties reached the quarterfinals of their respective classifications. Last season, this area set a personal best for teams the state postseason (six) and semifinals (three). This year, we’ve already pushed the area’s high for teams in the state playoffs to seven.

Last year, we had a state champion (Dalton) and a local-versus-local state championship (Dalton against Southeast Whitfield).

So what’s next? What else could the area accomplish?

How about multiple state champions in one season?

With four teams remaining — and headed to Tuesday’s second round — there are possibilities for as many as three state champions from the area. Dalton (18-0-1) and Southeast (12-5-2) remain in Class 4A, Coahulla Creek is one of 16 remaining in Class 3A and Murray County has state-title dreams alive in Class 2A.

It would be quite an accomplishment for this area if two or three  — or even four, if Northwest Whitfield’s girls team, which plays at 4:30 p.m. today in the first round at Columbus State University gainst host Columbus, makes an unprecedented run for local girls soccer — of the remaining sides won their last match of the season.

“It has to be the next bar,” said Coahulla Creek coach Eric Parker, whose team earned its first state playoffs win in program history last week against Buford.

“If that happens, we’d definitely have a claim to say, ‘This is the best soccer area in the state of Georgia.’”

With Dalton’s undefeated streak now at 41 matches — and aiming for 42 at Harmon Field against Lanier (10-6-2), Region 8’s No. 3 seed — and Southeast a program historically making runs to at least the quarterfinals, you wouldn’t be called crazy to pick one to win the Class 4A title. Anything could happen — and Johnson-Gainesville, the No. 2-ranked team in’s coaches poll behind Dalton, is just as much a threat. Dalton is certainly the favorite, and Southeast is a serious contender.

The eighth-ranked Raiders host Region 8’s No. 4 seed, Lumpkin County (9-5-3), at 6:30 p.m. at Raider Stadium.

Then there is Class 3A and Class 2A.

Neither 10th-ranked Coahulla Creek (14-3-1) nor fifth-ranked Murray County (14-5) are the historically successful programs that Dalton and Southeast are — the Indians won their second state tournament win in program history last week against Chattahoochee County — and neither Coahulla Creek nor Murray Counry entered the season as favorites to win a state title. Yet, both are rising, and getting through this next round could be the gateway to a deep run.

Region 5 No. 2 seed Coahulla Creek travels to play at 7 p.m. against the Region 8 champs, Oconee County (16-3), who the Colts lost to 5-1 in last season’s opening round. Oconee County is ranked sixth in the state.

“We know them and their field,” Parker said. “We know a little about them and how they work. We know they’ll have a bunch of big kids, over 6-feet tall. They’re fundamentally sound and coached well.”

Murray County, Region 7’s No. 2 seed, plays at 6 p.m. on the road against Region 6 champion Greater Atlanta Christian, which is undefeated through 19 matches this season. Along with that feat, Greater Atlanta Christian is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.

“They’re going to have size on us,” Murray County coach Marco Burgueno said. “They aren’t giving up many goals but they’re scoring a lot.”

Winning in round two wouldn’t guarantee any end-of-year trophy hoisting for either Coahulla Creek or Murray County, but like Dalton and Southeast, you wouldn’t be crazy to predict the Colts or Indians winning their last match.

“I think this is, especially on this side the bracket, the toughest match we could get,” Burgueno said.

“If we can get by this round, psychologically there’s nothing as tough. If we can beat these guys, then we can take anybody on.”

Whether it happens this year or down the road, in terms of area success, a multiple-champion season eventually will come. Soccer is too good around here.

And you can’t call me crazy for predicting it.

Devin Golden is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen. You can email him at or follow him on Twitter at @GoldenDev.

Text Only
  • NW vs Cass baseball 6  mlh.jpg Thrown a curveball

    About four weeks ago, Seth Pierce and his family moved closer to Ringgold High School — a move which has big ramifications on two sports fronts. Not only will his departure affect the Northwest Whitfield High School baseball program, the move will also put him back on the football field.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • NW Football3.jpg Prep football: NW Whitfield staying hungry for more success

    Northwest Whitfield High School entered the 2013 season motivated to reach the state playoffs — something the Bruins accomplished.
    This year’s team possesses the hunger to mirror last season’s successes — and possibly more.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Chris Whitfield: Ending ride (kind of) as sports writer

    T wo weeks ago, I was told by managing editor Jamie Jones that I would no longer be a full-time sports writer with The Daily Citizen. It was a mutual decision.

    July 28, 2014

  • Local trio leads NW section to 3rd place

    Tori Owens, of Chatsworth finished 11-over-par Monday in the Junior Sectional Challenge Match at The Landings Club-Marshwood and Magnolia in Savannah for third place in the girls 12-13-year-old 9-hole division. She joined Landon Painter and Hardin Chambless on the Northwest team.

    July 28, 2014

  • 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