May 22, 2014

Cheaves: A calm champion putting team before achievement

All season, Dalton High School’s boys soccer team was chasing a second consecutive Class 4A state championship.

Within that run, some of the Catamounts’ secondary numbers and streaks received publicity.

But one accomplishment was seemingly ignored until the final match’s conclusion.

Dalton coach Matt Cheaves earned his 300th win last week in the 5-0 semifinals victory against Spalding, and then earned his 301st win coaching the Catamounts in Saturday’s 2-0 state-championship triumph over Johnson-Gainesville. At Thursday’s postseason banquet at the high school, held each season but holding a little bit more of a special aura after state championships, players recalled being oblivious to their coach’s feat until the bus ride home.

“He said, ‘I didn’t want to tell you guys until after the semifinals because I wanted you to focus on winning the state championship,’” junior midfielder Eder Mora remembered. “It was a good moment for the whole team to give him his 300th win.”

How does 300 wins rank among the most ever in high school soccer?

As of last summer, Terry Michler of Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.) had the most wins of any high school boys soccer coach with 884, according to the website Cheaves’ 301 wins is the most of any active coach in Whitfield or Murray counties.

Dalton’s much-mentioned undefeated streak is now at 45 matches, encompassing two seasons and starting with the first match of the 2013 campaign. After each Dalton victory this season, the streak grew. After a 2-2 draw against Dobyns-Bennett, of Kingsport, Tenn., the streak shifted from a winning one to an undefeated one, still going higher and higher after each few days.

Then it was a second straight Region 7 championship last month, and the No. 1 ranking Dalton held in’s coaches poll for a large part of the season.

None of that held much significant to Cheaves. The priority always was another state title.

That’s why Cheaves’ milestone wasn’t highlighted until the Catamounts finished the job. With a calm personality, he is extremely focused on the future.

“That wasn’t the time to celebrate,” Cheaves said of the 300th win. “We won the semifinals, but we were going to the championship. I didn’t want to shift the focus and attention to something like that. The main thing is the team, no individual.”

Cheaves only has been a head coach at Dalton, and started there 20 years ago. That’s an average of about 15 victories per season. His teams have earned 18 trips to the state playoffs, 13 region championships, 10 quarterfinals appearances, three state titles and one runner-up. The first state title came in 2003, a shared title with Heritage-Rockdale, and the runner-up finish to Woodward Academy came one year later.

A decade after that, and the back-to-back run finally happened.

“We’ve had so much community support and help from the student body,” Cheaves said. “It has been incredible.”

Before coming to Dalton — legendary football coach Bill Chappell was athletic director when Cheaves was hired — Cheaves was a player/coach for the soccer club at West Georgia College, where he finished his education degree. He was one of the founding players for Clayton State University’s program, where he played center midfield, and he played in high school at DeKalb Christian.

Dalton’s roster is full of Hispanic players who became skilled in the sport before starting high school. Cheaves said his job is to keep those individual skills up to par and bring each player together as a combined unit.

“He gets us to know one another well, which we already do,” junior midfielder Kobe Perez said, “but gets us to play as a team. Sure, you can have good players on the team, but if you don’t play together, it doesn’t work.”

Still, with the season in the rearview mirror, Cheaves hasn’t had a chance to reflect on what 300 wins means. Then again, he’s already at 301, and he’s already finalizing next season’s region schedule as Dalton goes for a Class 5A title when the school moves up in classification. The Catamounts will be looking for a three-peat.

“There have been a lot of things to do,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to sit back.”

Always looking to the next match. That’s Matt Cheaves.

Text Only
  • U.S. Amateur dreams over for local golfers

    Dalton golfers Chase Miller and Will Morrow traveled to Cincinnati on Tuesday in an attempt to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but neither earned one of the three qualifying spots at the 6,588-yard, par-70 course at Camargo Club.

    July 23, 2014

  • Report: Boggs now with Giants

    Dalton’s Mitchell Boggs has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants, according to Contract information, along with which minor league affiliate Boggs, a pitcher, will start with, was not available in the report, and Boggs was not listed on any of the online rosters for any of the Giants’ minor league affiliates.

    July 21, 2014

  • SE wrestling practice 5 mlh.jpg Herndon leaving Raiders to coach at Calhoun; new coach named at SE Whitfield

    Michael Herndon’s successful three-year run as Southeast Whitfield High School’s wrestling coach has come to an end.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Hipp makes cut at qualifying tourney

    Chatsworth golfer Colby Hipp earned the chance to play on today in a U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament at Reynolds Plantation-Great Waters in Eatonton.

    July 21, 2014

  • 7on7 day 2 '14 17 mlh.jpg Devin Golden: Friday signals gridiron days’ official start

    Seven-on-seven football was a good placeholder, but it’s time to begin talking about the real thing.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • CCAC-B&W.jpg CCAC has strong showing at 14-and-under state meet

    The Carpet Capital Aquatics Club had 16 club records broken in a 12th-place finish at the 2014 Georgia 14-and-under Long Course State Championship meet Saturday at Georgia Tech’s swimming facility.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: Golf now in era of McIlroy after Open

    Royal & Ancient officials, under whose auspices the Open championship is conducted each year, were blessed with a sun-kissed start of the final round of the 143rd playing of this historic event.

    July 21, 2014

  • Motocross kid 6 mlh.jpg Dirt, gas and guts

    Lucas Amos is like a lot of other 6-year-olds who will be going into first grade at Tunnel Hill Elementary this school year.
    He likes to play the video game sensation Minecraft, building different structures and fending off zombies when the sun goes down. He likes to spend time with his grandparents, traveling around the Southeast with them most every weekend.
    And he likes to play in the dirt.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: McIlroy at his peak at Hoylake

    HOYLAKE, England — It’s the setting which enraptures those who appreciate the things that accompany a championship, The British refuse to let a downpour or two, intermittent and inconvenient, to make them fret.

    July 20, 2014

  • MMA guys 1 mlh.jpg Up close and personal

    Dustin Dyer remembers his first fight — and he has wisdom to share with North Georgia Hayastan Mixed Martial Arts Academy’s three new mixed martial arts fighters.
    “It’s just another day in the gym,” Dyer said, “just with a bigger crowd. Here (in the gym) is where you work. Out there is fun.”

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo