April 12, 2014

Region 7-4A soccer: No. 1 Catamounts lead teams to the postseason with repeat dreams

Dalton High School’s boys soccer team enters this week’s Region 7-4A tournament the same way as last season — the top-ranked, undefeated favorites everyone is gunning for.

The boys teams at Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield reversed their regular season fortunes from a year ago — but can still attain similar postseason success.

Both the top four boys and girls teams from each of the region’s sub-regions begin the eight-team brackets Tuesday with the higher seed hosting throughout. The No. 1 seed from each side plays the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed from each sub-region plays the No. 3 seed. The first-round winners secure spots in the upcoming Class 4A state playoffs and will continue playing for better postseason seeding and eventually a region title.

Ranked No. 1 in eurosportscoreboard.com’s Class 4A poll, Dalton (14-0-1) clinched its second consecutive Sub-region 7B title a few weeks ago and aims for a second-straight region championship, a stepping stone toward the Catamounts’ goal of a second-straight state championships. Dalton has not lost in 37 straight matches and will host Cass at 7 p.m. at Harmon Field.

Despite Dalton’s unparalleled success, not running that unbeaten number to 38 removes the program from any hopes of back-to-back state titles

“The success from last year was last year’s team,” Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said. “This year is different. ... There’s no room for errors, mistakes or being overconfident. It puts pressure on us, but that makes us stronger, dealing with the pressure. We always have a target on our backs.”

Northwest’s boys team (5-6-3) is the biggest question mark. The Bruins gave the Catamounts their toughest test in the last two years — Dalton won 1-0 in extra time last month — and also beat Southeast (9-4-2) earlier this season 1-0 in a game that didn’t count in the sub-region standings.

Northwest then must explain a 4-2 loss to Heritage and an early season 4-1 loss to Southeast which counted in the sub-region standings.

“Our record is definitely a reflection of the youth we have in our starters,” Northwest coach Ryan Scoggins said.

The Bruins are a No. 4 seed and will travel to 7A champ River Ridge for a 5:30 p.m. start. Northwest had its best season ever a year ago, reaching the state semifinals. A win against River Ridge — and a win in the semifinals — means the Bruins are back in the region title match.

“I’ve laid that exact scenario out for our guys,” Scoggins said. “As bad as our season has gone record-wise, if we play well this next week it kind of flips on our head. ... Hopefully, we can catch fire and make a run here at the end.”

If Northwest needs an example, last year’s Southeast team is a perfect one. The Raiders were the No. 3 seed for the region tournament, lost in the semifinals and surged through the state playoffs until a 5-0 loss to Dalton in the title game.

This year, Southeast is the No. 2 seed from 7B and hosts Gilmer at 6 p.m. Southeast coach Kevin Kettenring said the program has played a tough schedule and now must get ready for a do-or-die situation.

“We’re looking forward to spending some time at home,” Southeast coach Kevin Kettenring said. “It’s not a given so it has to be victorious or you’re done.”

On the girls side, Heritage-Catoosa is the No. 1 seed from Sub-region 7B, and River Ridge holds that label from 7A.

Northwest’s girls (10-2) are the No. 2 seed from 7B and host in the first round for the second year in a row. The Lady Bruins also want a second state playoffs trip in a row as they face Gilmer at 5:30 p.m.

Northwest enters the region bracket off a 10-0 win Thursday versus Cedartown.

“I think they’re having fun when they play,” Northwest coach Melissa Torbett said. “I think that showed Thursday night. ... I’d love for us to make the region championship. I think that would be wonderful. I personally would like to see Heritage again. I’d love for the girls to have another shot at them.”

The Dalton girls (8-4-1) also have aims for a state postseason berth after not making it a year ago. The Lady Catamounts finished third in the sub-region and travel to Cass for a 5:45 p.m. start. Dalton and Cass played once and the Lady Catamounts lost 5-0.

“Our objective the past couple games has been to get ready for Cass,” Dalton coach tony Carlson said. “I felt once we knew we were the No. 3 seed that we’d probably face Cass, so we’ve been focusing on a lot of issues from when we played them last. I think the girls know that was an off night for them but not an excuse.

“Our hope is to get past that first round and if so maybe get a little inspiration going and have some prospects for the region tournament.”

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