April 15, 2014

Raiders clinch spot in soccer state tournament

With the formalities of earning a GHSA Class 4A boys state soccer berth out of the way, Southeast Whitfield immediately turned its attention to a little sibling rivalry.

The Raiders, the No. 2 seed from Sub-region 7B, thoroughly dominated 7A No. 3 seed Gilmer 5-0 in the region playoffs Tuesday at Raider Field. The win was so complete that the Bobcats didn’t even have an official shot on goal all night and all eyes were focused on what lies ahead.

“We are going to get to state, but that is to come,” said forward Ronaldo Sandate, who had a pair of goals and an assist. “The pressure is now because we know that all we will have left from here on out will be good, tough teams, and that starts with Northwest.”

With the victory, Southeast will now play host to county rival Northwest Whitfield — the sub-region’s No. 4 seed and a 3-0 winner Tuesday over 7A No. 1 seed River Ridge — on Thursday in the region semifinals at 7 p.m. Both teams are assured of making state as one of the region’s top four seeds, but the playoff positioning now begins. It will be the third meeting between the two teams with each team winning on the other’s home field. Southeast won 4-1 in Tunnel Hill on Feb. 28, while Northwest took a 1-0 win Southeast at Raider Stadium on March 20.

“They came here the last time and beat us, and this will be our second chance,” Sandate said. This time, the score is going to be different. Last time, we had already beat them and we let that get to us. It is going to be really intense. We will both have a lot of fans and a lot of people supporting us, and we don’t want to let them down like we did the last time.”

No one on the Southeast side of the ledger made any pretense about this being “just another game.”

“Oh yeah, it is personal,” coach Kevin Kettenring said. “They beat us here the last time we played, and here we are again playing Northwest and the winner (could play) Dalton just like in the state semifinals last year. That is the nature and the love of it. You just smile and you would rather have it this way than any other way.”

Dalton, Southeast and Northwest all advanced to the state semifinals last season with Southeast beating Northwest 2-0 in a semifinals match that went to extra time and falling 5-0 to Dalton in the state title game. Dalton, No. 1 in the eurosportscoreboard.com rankings, won 10-0 over Cass on Tuesday and will play in the other region semifinal at home Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s match between Heritage-Catoosa and Cedartown.

Kettenring said the experience of having to play some of the state’s best competition all within one county is showing this year as well.

“Experience is something that has to be passed on,” Kettenring said. “It isn’t something that is birthed. It is developed and it is developed in the playoffs in these situations against teams like Dalton and Northwest. Every coach has got those younger players, and they have to see that intensity in those older players and recognize the role they play. That focus and concentration is what you rely on and hope they gain from those older players.”

The kind of focus was evident early on against the Bobcats. Southeast had 12 shots on goal in the first half, converting twice for a 2-0 lead. Diego Nunez scored on a header off of a Sandate throw-in halfway through the first half, and Christopher Guijon scored off of a centering pass from Nunez in short time to end the half.

Things kept rolling for the Raiders in the second half as Sandate scored three minutes into the half and then added another in the 67th minute. Southeast’s final score was tacked on by Brian Parks as the hosts outshot Gilmer 22-0.

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