Amidst all the expectations for a strong run this season from the three local Class 4A boys high school soccer teams, Northwest Whitfield’s girls are hoping for some playoff magic themselves.
Five matches into their schedule, the Lady Bruins have shown signs of that being a realistic goal.
The Lady Bruins remained undefeated with a 2-0 victory over rival Dalton on Tuesday at Harmon Field, scoring a goal in each half and playing well enough defensively to shut out the Lady Catamounts, who were without their top scoring threat.
Still, Northwest coach Anna Stutts was more concerned with the weaknesses she saw than praising her team.
“The girls did a better job in the second half, but I thought we could have played a much, much better game,” Stutts said. “This was not the same aggressive team I have seen so far this year. We are proud of the win over Dalton, but we could have played way, way better.”
Dalton won the boys match 6-1, with Ramiro Huitanda becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer as the Cats (7-0) topped the previously unbeaten Bruins. The two schools are both members of Sub-region 7B-4A, but Tuesday’s games did not count in the league standings.
In the girls match, Northwest’s Ashlee Huynh scored for midway through the first half and Juliana Gomez secured the final score with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. Huynh’s shot from the top of the box came out of the setting sun and off the hands of Dalton (4-3) keeper Alex Brumblelow.
But neither team was very aggressive in the first half. Northwest had just six shots on goal, and that was double what Dalton managed.
“It really was pinball soccer out there for both teams, just passing the ball back and forth,” Dalton coach Tony Carlson said. “It was ugly for both teams in my opinion, as far as the way the game was played.”
The Lady Cats played without leading scorer Ale Salaises, who was given a red card in Dalton’s loss to LaFayette last week and had to sit out the game per Georgia High School Association rules.
“Ale is an important player and she will be back with us, but in the end the other girls are going to have to step up their play,” Carlson said. “The good thing for both teams is that it isn’t the official sub-region game which will count in the standings. We both have time to clean some things up, and hopefully we can find our groove.”
Stutts is looking for something better as well.
“We didn’t play to the ball. We weren’t aggressive,” she said. “We usually are more at home in our positions. It just wasn’t what we are really looking for.”
Northwest dominated play on Dalton’s half of the field in the first half, and the two teams were more even in the second half, with neither team having an advantage. But Gomez found a slot in the Dalton defense late in the game to put the victory away.
“We have definitely had better games this year, but it is Dalton,” Gomez said. “We maybe got a little nervous, but we came out with a win.”
In the boys match, Huitanda’s hat trick moved him to the top of the school’s record books.
The senior’s three scores gave him 78 career goals in three years and moved him past 2006 Dalton graduate Luis Salazar, who held the previous record with 76. Huitanda scored early in the second half to give Dalton a 3-1 cushion and tie the mark, and he then scored on a penalty kick and an easy goal off the right foot in back-to-back minutes late to give the Cats all they would need against a short-handed Northwest team.
“It feels really good to have the record,” Huitanda said. “When I started here, I never expected to be in the record books. Scoring is what is on my mind and is my job for this team.”
Dalton, which is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and No. 2 by eurosportscoreboard.com, led 1-0 on Andres Barragan’s header just over two minutes into the game. The Cats held that lead until the midpoint of the half.
On a flurry in front of the goal, Bryan Villa was on the back line and knocked down a shot attempt with his hand. After being dealt a red card for the violation, Northwest, ranked fifth by the AJC, played the rest of the game a man down, and Dalton took a 2-0 lead after Alan Pantaleon scored on the penalty kick.
“That was tough and a bang-bang play and he committed the penalty,” Northwest coach Ryan Scoggins said. “I feel like we are a better team than we showed tonight, but a lot of that had to do with a very good Dalton team. They took advantage of every opportunity to score, and that is what good teams do.”
David Perez scored after a steal and a move to pull Northwest to within 2-1, but Dalton kept the Bruins (4-1) off the scoreboard in the second half. In addition to Huitanda’s trifecta, Eder Mora had the game’s other goal off a free kick from 10 yards outside the box.
Like Stutts, Dalton coach Matt Cheaves is looking beyond his team’s win-loss record when it comes to measuring success.
“Things weren’t executed exactly the way we wanted to do tonight,” Cheaves said. “I think we got a little overconfident when we had the man advantage, and we made some mistakes.”