April 22, 2014

Catamounts defeat Raiders for latest region soccer title

For Dalton High School’s boys soccer team, the undefeated streak is now at 40 matches.

For the Catamounts, the far more important number is 2.

Dalton claimed its second consecutive Region 7-4A championship with a 4-1 victory Tuesday at Harmon Field against the Cats’ biggest rival, Southeast Whitfield. The win maintained the area’s soccer pecking order in Region 7-4A heading into the Class 4A state playoffs, which begin next Tuesday as Dalton (17-0-1) and Southeast (11-5-2) both host in the first round.

Northwest Whitfield (7-7-3) clinched the No. 3 seed with a 4-2 win at Cedartown in Monday’s third-place game in the Region 7-4A playoffs and will travel for the opening round of state. Region 7 is matched up with Region 5 for the first round.

As a No. 1 seed, the Catamounts could host as deep as the semifinals. The state title match is played at a neutral site.

“I would rather have the region championship than a streak,” Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said after Tuesday’s win — the Cats’ 34th straight at home. “We’ve had stretches of winning consecutive region championships and then dropping a couple. Losing those few in a row makes you appreciate it a whole lot more.”

Just two years ago, Southeast was celebrating its second straight Region 7-3A title with Dalton the runner-up. For the Raiders to defeat the Cats, the top-ranked team in the eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 4A poll, they hoped for an emotional boost by the midpoint of the region title match.

Southeast wanted to score first and be ahead or tied at halftime. Neither happened.

Yet Raiders coach Kevin Kettenring felt his team was as much in the match at halftime, trailing 2-1, as he could hope. The biggest objective was scoring first in the second half to draw even.

That didn’t happen either.

Javier Rodriguez broke free in the 56th minute and his shot from the left side found the far right post, putting Dalton ahead 3-1. Rodriguez scored five minutes later after Dalton’s build-up ended with his flick going over a charging Ivan Ortiz, Southeast’s goalkeeper, and bouncing into the net.

“Our halftime talk was ‘We need to be the next ones to score,’” Kettenring said. “We didn’t accomplish that.”

Dalton scored first in the sixth minute. Eder Mora’s cross found Rodriguez, who volleyed to Churrui Huitanda. The freshman midfielder collected the ball with his chest and volleyed it home with his left foot.

Like the previous six meetings between these programs during the past two years, Dalton scored the first goal.

And like the other six, the Catamounts never trailed.

“We just have to score first,” said senior Edgar Hernandez, a Dalton defender. “Once we score, we keep scoring.”

Southeast’s Jonathan Sanchez tied the game in the 10th minute when the Dalton defense’s clearance deflected off a teammate and to Sanchez’s feet. After a few near-misses for Dalton, Mora’s laser from the right side found the far left post in the 20th minute to put the Cats back ahead.

“I felt we had more consistent opportunities than in the previous meetings,” Kettenring said. “I wish we’d have gotten more balls into the box, but I liked our effort.”

The Cats outshot the Raiders 23-9 and had three first-half chances that went off the post. Ortiz made seven saves, while Dalton goalkeeper Samuel Fraire made four.

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