‘Soccer Town, USA’ thrives as schools in Dalton, Whitfield County add three more GHSA titles

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Dalton's Angel Salaises (10) and Luis Favela (28) defend as Baylor's Hayden Techarisiwan controls the ball during a March 21 game at Harmon Field in Dalton, Ga. Dalton on Thursday won the seventh GHSA state title in program history, capping a week in which schools located in Whitfield County won three boys' soccer championships.

The story of Soccer Town, USA, is still being written.

Dalton, Georgia, long known as the Carpet Capital of the World, was famously given the new moniker in a 2022 New York Times article about its success on the pitch. That success in GHSA boys' soccer, though, has gone beyond the city limits and throughout Whitfield County, which added three more state championships to its resumé this week.

Dalton High School, which started the soccer revolution in northwest Georgia two decades ago, capped a 21-2 season by winning its seventh title under coach Matt Cheaves with Thursday's 2-0 overtime victory over Midtown in the Class AAAAA final at Duluth High School. Luis Favela scored both of Dalton's goals in the first 10-minute overtime period, one on a great individual move and the other on a strong pass from David Saldana in a set piece.

The night before, Coahulla Creek won its second championship for coach Aurelio Jacobo, defeating Oconee County 1-0, also in overtime, in the Class AAA final at Mercer University in Macon. Cruz Barcenas scored off a long ball from Anthony Mendiola, a key member of the 2021 title team, with more than a minute to play in the first overtime session. The Colts (19-1-2) outscored their opponents 23-0 in the postseason.

Joining the championship party this year was private school Christian Heritage, which downed Georgia Military College Prep 2-1 in the Class A (Division I) final Tuesday at McEachern High School in Powder Springs. Marco Arostegui had both goals for the Lions (13-1-3), with his winner off a Peter Pridgen pass with seven minutes to play.

With Christian Heritage's victory, each high school in Whitfield County has a GHSA state title in boys' soccer. Along with Dalton's seven -- the Cats' titles in 2003, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019 and 2021 preceded this one -- and Coahulla Creek's two, Southeast Whitfield has three (2017, 2021, 2022), with one each for Northwest Whitfield (2018) and Dalton Academy (2022).

That gives schools located in Whitfield County a combined 11 titles since 2017. The GHSA did not hold a soccer postseason in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com.