POWDER SPRINGS — For the fifth time in program history, the Dalton High School boys soccer team can call themselves state champions.
Dalton defeated Gainesville 4-1 on Saturday afternoon to win the Class 6A Georgia High School Association boys soccer state championship at McEachern High School. Dalton’s senior midfielder Tony Saldana scored twice, both on assists from fellow senior midfielder Omar Hernandez, while freshman Yahir Paez and junior Manny Prieto each added goals.
Saturday was the first state championship for the program since 2015. For the senior class, which grew up in the shadow of the three-time state championship Catamount teams from 2013-15, winning a state championship themselves brought tears of joy.
“I’m speechless,” Hernandez said after the game. “This is what we’ve been working towards for the past four years. All that blood, sweat and tears finally paid off.”
Dalton began the season as the No. 1-ranked team in America, according to USA TODAY, and handled all expectations, finishing the season with an undefeated record of 23-0. On the season, the Catamounts scored 117 goals and allowed only 17.
Catamounts coach Matt Cheaves, who has won five state titles at Dalton, said after the match this year’s senior class was one of the best groups he has ever coached.
“This group of seniors is amazing,” Cheaves said after the game. “I told them (Friday) at the end of practice that they were the best leaders I’ve ever had. There’s no question about it.”