May 17, 2014

Cleat to the face gave Cats a needed cushion

KENNESAW — Chava Rodriguez didn’t run immediately to Javier Rodriguez after Javier scored Dalton High School’s second goal Saturday in the state boys soccer title match.

He went to Churrui Huitanda, the freshman who took a boot to the face but made it all possible.

The younger brother of Ramiro Huitanda — Dalton’s record-holder for single-season and career goals scored who finished his high school career last year — surely did well by his last name. Churrui Huitanda earned an assist on the all-important second goal of Dalton’s 2-0 win against Johnson-Gainesville in the Class 4A state championship at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University.

“That was all him,” Chava Rodriguez said of Churrui Huitanda. “I went right to him after the score — not to (Javier) but to him — and said, ‘That was all you. That was all you.’ I’m so proud of him. He’s my cousin. I did it with Ramiro, who is my cousin, and I did it with Churrui, too.”

Last year, Ramiro Huitanda scored a single-season record 47 goals as Dalton won the state championship. That was the end of a high school career boasting 106 goals.

In comes younger brother Churrui Huitanda with the well-known last name and connection to one of the best players in program history.

“I want to be just like him,” Churrui Huitanda said of his older brother. “I keep going at it, and winning this just gives me a head start.”

He got a head start just from playing as a freshman, something Ramiro didn’t do. And he got an early start from the motivation to see plenty of time on the field.

“He came out at the beginning of soccer season and told all of us, ‘By the third game, I’ll be starting,’” Dalton goalkeeper Samuel Fraire remembers.

 “As soon as the third game came, there he was starting and scoring for us.”

And he’s done just fine — and proved again Saturday on the biggest stage that your class year doesn’t always mean that much.

“He earned his way into the lineup,” Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said. “Someone told me that for every freshman starting, you lose two games. Churrui proved that wrong.”

With Dalton sporting a 1-0 lead to begin the second half, outside defender Kiko Rodriguez fought to keep the ball in bounds along the left sideline. He passed to center midfielder Eder Mora, who perfectly placed a chip over the Johnson defense and short of goalkeeper Ivan Salcido. Churrui Huitanda perfectly timed the run, staying onside but reaching the ball first. With Salcido charging hard, Churrui Huitanda didn’t have time to collect and strike, instead heading the ball over Salcido, who lifted his legs and landed a foot right into the Dalton player’s face.

The quick thinking took Salcido out of the play, though, and Javier Rodriguez finished on an open net to put the Catamounts up two goals.

“I don’t remember what happened,” Churrui Huitanda said. “ ... He just hit me hard.”

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