By Devin Golden
For the first time this season, Dalton High School’s boys soccer team had to survive a one-goal victory.
But the Catamounts press on believing the Johnson-Gainesville Knights’ challenge will make them stronger.
Dalton won 2-1 Wednesday night at Harmon Field in the second round of the Class 4A state tournament and reached the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year. Joining the Cats in the quarters are Northwest Whitfield, a 4-1 winner at Chestatee, and Southeast Whitfield, which rolled 6-1 at Carrollton.
Dalton (19-0), the Region 7-4A champion, entered with a sizable goal differential for the season, 110-7, and the No. 1 ranking in eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 4A and all-classifications polls for Georgia, as well as a No. 1 national ranking by maxpreps.com.
But Johnson (15-3-2), Region 8’s No. 2 seed and the fourth-ranked team in Class 4A, provided a much tougher obstacle than Dalton’s first-round opponent, Stone Mountain. The Cats won that game 10-0 and because of the mercy rule, it didn’t even go the full 80 minutes of regulation.
“This is going to help us,” Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said. “We had to fight to the end. At least a third of our games have ended (by mercy rule) this season. Some of the others we played comfortably to the end. ... This time of the year, the boys need to have the heart and fight to stick it out and win it.”
Trailing 2-0, the Knights scored their lone goal in the 58th minute when Dalton goalkeeper Raymundo Bahena lost his balance trying to deflect Jonathan Mendoza’s shot. Bahena got a hand on the ball but was unable to deflect it to the side or over the goal.
“I thought we played a heck of a game,” Knights coach Brian Shirley said. “We had some great opportunities on corners and I thought we should’ve scored at least one or two on corners. ... They just made one or two more plays than we did.”
Needing a goal to tie, Johnson only had one good chance the rest of the game. A free kick from around 25 yards away was headed twice before Bahena deflected it into the crossbar and the ball was sent out for a corner kick, which resulted in nothing substantial. It was the last of Johnson’s eight shots, and Dalton spent much of the final 15 minutes on Johnson’s side of the field.
The Cats had numerous chances to score their third goal. Johnson goalkeeper Jose Martinez bobbled a cross in the 72rd minute, Ramiro Huitanda’s shot deflected off Martinez and Alan Pantaleon’s shot went too high. In the 76th minute, a deep throw-in from Eder Mora found Pantaleon at the far post, but his header was saved at the goal line by Martinez. In the 78th minute, Huitanda’s off-balance shot from the left side was barely wide right.
“We had a couple chances to score at the end,” Bahena said. “I was hoping they’d be able to score a goal to make it 3-1 and not worry as much, but it wasn’t near me for most of that time.”
The Cats blew chances in the first half, too.
In the 21st minute, Dalton players celebrated after a deep throw-in found its way to the net. The referee ruled no one touched the ball, making the goal illegal, but the Cats argued the goalkeeper or a Johnson defender tipped it.
“It looked like it was tipped by three people to me,” Cheaves said.
One minute later, Javier Rodriguez made sure there wasn’t any doubt when he headed in a corner kick from point-blank range.
In the 33rd minute, a handball in the penalty area granted Dalton a beautiful chance for its second goal. Despite Martinez guessing and diving the wrong way, Ramiro Huitanda’s finesse shot rolled just outside the left post.
Three minutes later, Ryan Czyz made up for the blown opportunity. Jose Plaza had a three-on-one attack and slid the ball across to Czyz, who had little trouble finishing one of Dalton’s 18 shots for a 2-0 halftime cushion.
The Cats will play their quarterfinals match Saturday at Harmon Field against either Veterans or Jonesboro.
n Northwest 4, Chestatee 1: The Bruins (15-5) reached the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season with a performance coach Ryan Scoggins called “much better” than their first-round penalty-kick win against Grady.
David Perez’s 22nd goal of the year came eight minutes into the game and broke Giovanni Aguero’s single-season record of 21, set last year. Damien Lara scored in the 22nd minute to give Northwest a 2-0 halftime lead.
Chestatee (17-3), the Region 8 champion and third-ranked team in Class 4A, scored a penalty kick in the 60th minute to cut Northwest’s lead in half, but Aguero and Bryan Villa converted shots outside the penalty area in the 65th and 70th minutes, respectively. Perez had an assist, Christian Perez and Cielo Nunez each had one assist.
“Our passing was much crisper,” Scoggins said when comparing this performance to the first round. “We didn’t give the ball away nearly as much as we did against Grady. ... We did have some late chances to finish that I’d like to have back.”
The Bruins, the Region 7 runners-up and fifth-ranked Class 4A squad, will play Mary Persons in the quarterfinals.
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment but coming into the state tournament, our goal isn’t to get back to where we were,” Scoggins said. “Our goal is to get into new territory and push forward to new ground.”
Northwest had 21 shots on goal to Chestatee’s 12, while Bruins goalkeeper Miguel Deanda made six saves.
n Southeast 6, Carrollton 1: Facing the No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A and playing without their coach, the Raiders (11-4-1) rose to the occasion and reached the quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.
Victor Garcia had three assists and a goal, Erik Salaises scored a hat trick and Alex Rosillo scored once and assisted once to lead Southeast, which scored four times off deep throw-ins.
Garcia’s throw assisted Salaises in the second minute and again in the 35th. Garcia scored on a 12th-minute throw-in, while Salaises scored in the 30th minute from more than 20 yards away after an assist from Rosillo. Garcia’s long pass to Rosillo in the 50th minute ended in a goal, and Luis Sanchez came off the bench to head in a 76th-minute throw-in.
“We did great. We knew what we had to do,” said assistant Victor Rodriguez, who assumed most of the managerial duties in head coach Kevin Kettenring’s absence.
Kettenring could not attend the game due to a prior commitment, Southeast athletics director Mark Lentych said on Tuesday. The Raiders, Region 7’s No. 3 seed, entered the game ranked seventh in Class 4A.
“It came down to hard work,” Rodriguez added. “In the first half we did. We’d get the ball, lose it and get it right back. All their goals came from errors.
“We did have a couple good passes and combinations. We controlled the first half. The second half we played a little more keepaway to frustrate them.”
Region 5 champion Carrollton (13-4-1) scored its only goal on a penalty kick in the sixth minute. Southeast goalkeeper Abel Mendiola had seven saves.
The Raiders will play either Dutchtown or Howard in the next round. Southeast would host a game against Howard, but the Raiders would play at Dutchtown.