May 9, 2014

State soccer: Rain doesn’t slow Dalton in latest rout

Dalton High School’s boys soccer team had a closer-than-usual match Tuesday in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

The Catamounts looked more like their dominant selves — on the field and the scoreboard — against Perry in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Dalton earned a 10-0 mercy-rule win at Harmon Field, with the final goal coming in the 76th minute, and advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals with hopes for another win and a shot at a second consecutive state championship.

Dalton will host Spalding, which beat LaGrange on Friday, in the semifinals. In Tuesday’s other semifinal, Southeast Whitfield will travel to play Johnson-Gainesville, which beat Cairo in the quarterfinals. Dalton and Southeast met in last year’s Class 4A championship — the Cats won 5-0 — and the Raiders did their part to keep the possibility of a local rivalry rematch with their 1-0 win at Statesboro on Friday.

Following Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Lanier, which Dalton coach Matt Cheaves had referred to as a “wake-up call” for his team, the Cats got back to unquestionable dominance against Perry.

The victory stretched Dalton’s unbeaten streak, which started with the first match of the 2013 season, to 43 matches.

“We came right out, got on them and played our game,” Cheaves said. “We moved well, passed well and the communication was there. We eliminated a lot of the give-away errors we made in the previous game. The boys were really intense for this match. I could see it in the locker room beforehand. They were really focused. They didn’t want to play like the last game.”

Dalton (20-0-1), the No. 1 team in the Class 4A rankings and the Region 7 champion, played much more to Cheaves’ liking against Perry (16-4).

Antonio Martinez’s hard, low shot to the corner with four minutes remaining ended the match and Perry’s season. It was the 20th shot Dalton attempted, while Perry only took four.

It was the eighth match Dalton has won this season by mercy rule, its 13th of the past two seasons and its fourth in eight state playoff matches played in the past two years.

“They’re just an overall great team,” Perry coach Nathan Dooley said. “They’re the best team we saw all year. By far.”

Compared to the second-round win, when the Cats didn’t score until the 39th minute despite dominating possession and scoring chances, Dalton sprinted to its first goal Friday.

Jesus Huitanda’s cross in the sixth minute found Manny Solis for a volley past Perry goalkeeper Bonner Brooks, who had an active day and made nine saves. Eder Mora, who commanded his center midfield position about as well as possible, made it 2-0 in the 11th minute with a low strike inside the post. Solis made it 3-0 in the 16th minute and Kobe Perez made it 4-0 heading into halftime with a 25th-minute penalty kick.

That’s four goals in 19 minutes, a stretch Region 2 champion Perry couldn’t afford.

“We knew we couldn’t give up too many goals,” Dooley said, “and it kind of overwhelmed us a bit. We fought all the way to the end, and I’m proud of the boys.”

Javier Rodriguez’s volley in the opening minute of the second half found Kiko Rodriguez for a scoring header and 5-0 advantage. In the 47th minute, Dalton earned an indirect kick from 15 yards away after the official whistled Perry for a foul away from the ball. Mora tapped to Pepe Gardea, who drove the ball below Perry’s wall of defenders and past Brooks for a 6-0 lead.

Solis assisted Isai Hernandez’s goal in the 49th minute for a 7-0 edge, and Solis converted another penalty kick in the 54th minute to complete his hat trick. That finished a 14-minute stretch in the second half of four goals for the Catamounts.

Josh Satterfield made it 9-0 with a penalty-kick conversion in the 68th minute.

Perry had two shots in each half. A 70th-minute header off of a deep throw-in missed wide right and a weak shot two minutes later rolled to Dalton’s backup goalkeeper, Leuri Fraire, who replaced starter Samuel Fraire with around 15 minutes left.

Dalton also won 10-0 in the quarterfinals against Jonesboro last season. Now the Cats will try and play as well as in last season’s semifinals, when they beat Spalding 7-0 to clinch their spot in the title match.

The Cats have outscored opponents 125-12 this season.

“It’s instinct,” Dalton senior sweeper Salvador Rod-riguez said. “All we want to do is score goals and win.”

An afternoon of rain didn’t stop those plans. Cheaves said he worried about field conditions — a wet playing surface means the ball skids when it bounces and can take unusual hops — but Dalton’s defense played spotless.

“I had a feeling this team would attack us with counterattacks,” Cheaves said. “They’d pull their defense back and then play long balls. With that, they squirt and bounce and do funny things. I was worried with the field conditions being a factor, but it wasn’t.”

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