By Marty Kirkland
Dalton High School’s boys soccer team has made a habit of scoring quickly in games this season, which has helped it take command early and establish a tone for the remainder of the contest.
Dalton struck early against Stone Mountain in a first-round Class 4A state tournament matchup Wednesday at Harmon Field, but the Cats also used two scoring barrages to their benefit in a 10-0 win cut short by the mercy rule.
The game ended in the 62nd minute when Eder Mora scored his third goal of the night — his tally was bested by Ramiro Huitanda’s four — as the Cats (18-0) got their fourth goal in a span of just more than seven minutes. Per Georgia High School Association rules, games end when either team is ahead by 10 in the second half.
“We come out here to win and it doesn’t matter what it takes,” Mora said. “We’ve got to put up points and goals on the scoreboard, and as long as ours are higher than theirs, that’s what counts.”
Dalton, Region 7-4A’s No. 1 seed and the top-ranked team in the eurosportscoreboard.com Class 4A poll, will host a second-round matchup against Region 8 runner-up Johnson-Gainesville on Wednesday. The Knights beat Columbus 2-1 in the opening round.
After Ryan Czyz tapped a slow roller in to give Dalton a 1-0 lead a little more than two minutes into the game, Dalton kept up the intensity and continued to create offensive opportunities but went scoreless for almost 15 minutes. That ended when Andres Barragan headed in a score that was set up by Mora, the first of four goals scored by the Cats in a span of less than six minutes that sent them to halftime with a 5-0 lead.
The explosive nature of Dalton’s offense against the Pirates (11-7), the No. 4 seed from Region 6, got a big check mark from Cats coach Matt Cheaves, not so much because of the prolific scoring as the style of play that produced it.
“That was kind of our main goal for this game was to play at a high level of intensity for the full game, no letdown, no get up on them and put it in cruise control,” Cheaves said. “We wanted to stay in attack mode and not change anything, just constantly going at them.”
Dalton also got a 57th-minute goal from Alan Pantaleon, who assisted directly on one of Huitanda’s scores — a goal in the 23rd minute — and incidentally set up another. While Stone Mountain goalkeeper Mohamed Omanovic was able to get his hands on several hard shots by the Cats — he made six saves — keeping the ball in his possession proved difficult, and Huitanda’s goal in the 19th minute came after Omanovic couldn’t hang on to a corner kick by Pantaleon.
The Cats took advantage when the ball was loose near the net, with Czyz’s goal the start of that trend. He scored without Omanovic appearing to know there was a shot to defend, cleaning up with a mob of bodies in front of the keeper.
Huitanda, who converted a penalty kick for one of his goals after a Stone Mountain handball in the box, said the Cats want opponents to feel like things are happening too fast to handle.
“When we score fast, our adrenaline goes up and we just want to keep going and going non-stop,” he said. “We just run them and run them. ... The more pressure we put, they’ll break down and it will be easier for us to win.”
Mora even managed to score with his hands when his 55th-minute throw-in brushed Omanovic’s fingertips before finding the net. The shot was made legit by the keeper’s contact.
“It doesn’t happen too often but when it does, hey, I’m happy,” Mora said. “We just try to set it up for our guys so they can header it in, but if it turns out that way then I’ll take it.”
Wednesday’s win was the Cats’ fifth 10-goal effort this season. Although they weren’t busy, Cats keepers Raymundo Bahena and Chris Monroig combined in goal for the shutout — Monroig entered 10 minutes into the second half — which was Dalton’s 12th of 2013.
Still, Cheaves believes the Cats are more focused on what they can do than what they have done.
“They know what they want to do and you can’t go out to practice with a low intensity,” he said. “You treat every touch of the ball like it’s a game situation. Hopefully they maintain that. A lot of it’s up to them, but it’s a good group of seniors. They are a hungry group, as hungry as I’ve seen.”