Champions' path: Colts dominate most of the regular season, survive playoff tests on way to first title

Daniel Mayes/Daily Citizen-News

Coahulla Creek High School players pose after the Colts' 3-1 win over Westminster in the Class 3A state championship game.

The 2021 boys soccer season for Coahulla Creek High School was a march toward a little delayed retribution.

Coahulla Creek reached the state championship game in Class 3A in 2019, the program's deepest playoff run at the time, but that run to the title game ended with a loss to perennial state champion Westminster Christian in a 4-0 defeat.

After the state tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, 2021 left a group of standout seniors, like Manny Arredondo, Jaime Mendiola and Ronaldo Medina, that remembered the 2019 defeat.

"After coming all that way and losing two years ago was tough," Mendiola said. "I'm just so proud of my team. I knew we could do it."

The Colts reached the finals again, only to face that same Westminster team — this time looking for its fourth consecutive title.

A hard-fought 80 minutes of regulation ended with a 1-1 score, but Coahulla Creek prevailed 3-1 in overtime to get that payback and earn the program's first state championship.

After an early season 8-1 loss to Class 6A state championship Dalton High School with a shorthanded team, Coahulla Creek (17-2-2) dominated their way through most of their regular-season schedule on the way to that Class 3A state championship.

Coahulla Creek earned the Region 6-3A championship with an 8-0 record, and each of those eight wins was a 10-0 mercy rule victory. The other loss on the Colts' schedule was a 2-1 last-minute defeat at the hands of another Whitfield County state champion, Class 4A's Southeast Whitfield.

The Colts had a stretch of seven straight shutout victories at one point in the season.

Once Coahulla Creek reached the playoffs, the domination continued through the first two rounds.

In round one against Gilmer, the Colts didn't score in the first half, then stampeded for seven second-half goals, led by a hat trick (three goals) from Mendiola, in a 7-0 victory.

In the Sweet 16 against East Jackson, Coahulla Creek didn't need as long to get the domination going. Less than five minutes into the game, Mendiola scored the first of Coahulla Creek's five first-half goals, and the Colts rolled with five more after half to end the game via mercy rule with nearly 20 minutes left on the clock.

In the Elite 8, the Colts hit the road for the first time in the playoffs and faced their toughest test yet.

Coahulla Creek fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 at Morgan County before coming back to tie the game at 3-3 in the final few minutes of regulation. Morgan County scored first again in overtime, but Coahulla Creek tied it again to send the game to penalty kicks, where the Colts escaped with a victory.

The state semifinals saw the Colts fall behind again 1-0 to Greater Atlanta Christian at home, but Coahulla Creek wouldn't face nearly as steep of a climb this time. They scored six unanswered to clinch their spot in the state finals again, setting up a rematch with Westminster Christian. The Colts fell 4-0 to Westminster in 2019, the last time the state tournament was held.

In the state finals, Coahulla Creek scored first on a free kick from Medina. Westminster tied it back up prior to halftime, and the score remained locked at 1-1 throughout the remainder of regulation, despite the Colts playing a man short for the majority of the second half. Dems Noel was given a red card early in the second and was sent off, but the Colts still didn't let Westminster take the lead.

In overtime, Mendiola put the Colts ahead 2-1 after a penalty kick. Then, Arredondo put the finishing touches on the title.

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