POWDER SPRINGS — There’s a certain sense of family that many say comes with playing for the Dalton High School boys soccer team, but it’s a little different when the family is actually blood-related.
While the Catamounts celebrated the school’s fifth title in school history on Saturday at McEachern High School with a 4-1 win over Gainesville, many players were supported by those who have experienced it themselves — their brothers.
Brothers Cristian and Hernan Saldana, 2015 and 2016 Dalton High graduates, respectively, watched from the front row as senior and second-youngest of the family Tony Saldana led the Catamounts to the win with two goals. What was the first state title for Tony Saldana made the elder brothers realize just how much winning their titles with Dalton — 2013, 2014 and 2015 — meant to them.
"Since we were little we were always ready for it," Hernan Saldana said. "At that point, we were always more anxious to get (to the state championship) than nervous.
"I definitely miss that high school atmosphere because there's so many people here."
Watching their baby brother finally get his title was something Cristian Saldana said he couldn’t describe. Tony Saldana scored both of his goals before halftime.
"It's amazing. I'm speechless," Cristian Saldana. "It's his senior year, so I'm pretty sure this means everything to him. Ever since the beginning of the season, he's just been talking about how bad he wants this."
Besides the Saldanas, there was plenty more brotherly love to go around at Saturday's game.
Senior Ivan Mora's brother and former Catamount Eder Mora, a 2015 graduate now playing soccer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was cheering like he was at a professional soccer game. Ivan Mora sat out the championship game with an injured knee, but hugged his fellow teammates tightly after the final whistle.
"When (Eder) was in high school, I watched him work for his state championships and I just wanted to follow that up," he said. "Unfortunately he ended with more than me, but I'm thankful to have this one. I know he really wanted me to win one, too, because he sees how much effort and practice we put into it."
Adding to the Catamounts' cheering section, senior Harrison Fraire had a brother, Samuel, in attendance, while junior Miguel Perez's brother, Gerardo, also watched from the front row. Many other former Catamounts showed up to support the team, whether or not they had a blood-brother on the roster.
"Ultimately, the brotherhood is what gets you through it," Hernan Saldana said.
As he ran up and down the field Saturday, Tony Saldana was focused on making his final goal a reality. But he still said he could feel the support.
"It's been three years my brothers have been bugging me about not having a ring," he said. "They don't have any room to talk anymore.
"It's been such an unforgettable journey that I will remember for the rest of my life. It means everything that they are here. It's crazy to see all these people, but they are the only ones I hear. Everyone else in the atmosphere is great, but there are always certain voices I hear over the thousand in the crowd, and they are definitely some of them."