DALTON, Ga.—The Southeast Whitfield soccer Raiders can say they’ve accomplished a lot of goals in the 2011 season.
They wanted to score two goals per half. They’ve done it in nearly every game. Even against Cedartown when they only scored one in the first half, they beat their average by netting five in the second.
The 9-0 Raiders, ranked third in Georgia Class AAA, have scored 37 goals this season while allowing three. They’ve had only one game decided by fewer than two goals — a 1-0 victory over county rival Northwest — and are streaking toward the Class AAA playoffs in their first season in the classification.
Although the Northwest game was their closest, their biggest victory was a 3-0 blanking of crosstown rival Dalton last Friday night.
“That’s one of the biggest games of the year for us,” said senior Sammy Torres, a four-year starter. “We take a lot of pride in that game, especially since it was the first time we’d ever beat them in regulation.”
Torres, who has played both center midfielder and right wing, said the team doesn’t worry much about stats or individual accomplishments.
“We all just love the sport,” he said. “We’re having fun out there. Some people play to win, others to have fun. We’ve just had to learn that there’s a time to be serious and a time to have fun.”
Coach Jamison Griffin emphasizes a team motto every season. This season’s was “A Season of Purpose.”
“The seniors have bought in to what I’m trying to sell them,” Griffin said with a laugh. “There’s been a lot of good and bad happen to this team so far. We’ve learned that soccer is a vehicle to educate, and the seniors bought in early and we’re jelling on the field.
“We haven’t peaked yet, but it’s nice to know the best is still ahead.”
Griffin has accomplished two goals in his own right. The first was one he made at the beginning of the year; the second one his players sort of made for him.
“They told me I yell too much in the first 10 minutes of the game,” Griffin said. “They want to get a feel for the game, so they asked me to be calmer and not yell as much.
“It’s been an adjustment, but I think I’ve been doing better.”
The other goal is one that Griffin, as well as the program, has taken special pride in. Seniors Mickey Guerrero and Omar Hernandez recently signed scholarships to continue their soccer careers at Truett-McConnell College, and Zeke Nunez and Chris Salaises will sign a week from today to play for Atlanta Christian.
Noel Pimentel, the Times Free Press area player of the year in 2010, has a multitude of college offers to consider.
“We made it a point to get players signed,” Griffin said. “We have a program designed to get players to college; we just have to do the right things to get them there.”
The Raiders have nearly achieved their ultimate team goal — a state championship. They lost in penalty kicks in the 2008 state final and fell in the state semifinals last season. Torres was a part of both teams and would love one last opportunity to play for state gold.
“The freshmen and sophomores look up to me because I played in the state championship game as a freshman,” he said. “We’re wanting to try something similar to that this year.”