The Dalton High School boys' soccer team does not appear fazed by its No. 1 national ranking by USA Today.
The Catamounts improved to 14-0 Tuesday evening as junior Manny Prieto scored and assisted the final two goals for a 4-1 victory at Baylor.
"We play as a team and have a lot of heart," Prieto said. "We are all friends and hardly get mad at each other. We help each other and use constructive criticism to make ourselves better. Every game we hustle and try to get the results we want."
Dalton's constant and deep attack, which has averaged 5.3 goals per game this season, overwhelmed a defending state champion side that lost 12 seniors last year and was fresh off spring break. The final shots margin was 26-4.
Nathan Lemus' clean slide tackle prevented an early chance in the box and keeper Charlie Hooks made a highlight-reel diving block on a powerful shot by Damian Rodriguez, but the Red Raiders' defense could hold up only so long.
Wake Forest signee Omar Hernandez set up the first goal in the 37th minute as he drew extra defenders and made a no-look pass off his back heel through the left side of the box for an easy run and score by Miguel Perez.
"Our guys work very hard and don't cut corners," 25th-year Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said. "They are great students of the game and really enjoy playing the game with one another. This game is a really good confidence booster because Baylor is an outstanding program and always tough."
Harrison Fraire's header made for extra breathing room five minutes into the second half.
The Red Raiders (4-2) did not get many chances offensively, but Nathan Webb connected with John Musick, who hammered home their goal in the 50th minute.
"It's great for our guys to know every year we play Dalton after we get back from spring break," Baylor coach Curtis Blair said. "They are one of the best teams you will find. I loved our fight and energy today, but we just lost our legs as the game went on. They make you defend for nearly 80 minutes."
After a 1-1 draw against Baylor last season, Dalton opened the floodgates late for a bit of makeup.
Nathan Rincon sent a perfectly placed entry pass to the top right of the box that Prieto sent past a crashing goalie in front of him in the 63rd. Prieto paid it forward in the 72nd as he put a spin move on a defender and lifted a cross to find Rodriguez for the final score.
With the Catamounts in search of their first state championship since a three-peat ended in 2015, they seek to push themselves and use advice from others down the stretch.
"It's a blessing to have learned and trained with past Dalton state champions," Dalton senior midfielder and captain Tony Saldana said. "I remember watching their state-title teams, and even when they were tired they played at a high level and had each other's backs. That's our expectation."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.