POWDER SPRINGS -- Coming out of halftime in the Class 6A state championship game, Dalton High School led Johns Creek 2-1 and was looking to break open the game.
The Catamounts only needed nine seconds.
Just off the opening kick of the period, Zeke Ortiz rushed the ball, controlled it and sent it past the Johns Creek goalkeeper to give the Catamounts a lead the Spartans could never erase.
"I just ran, and the defenders didn't catch it," Ortiz said. "I just shot it and it went in. It was an amazing feeling watching it go in. I couldn't describe it with words."
Dalton (20-0-2) defeated Johns Creek (16-3-1) 3-2 Friday night at McEachern High School in Powder Springs to earn the 2021 Class 6A state championship, the Catamounts' sixth state title in boys soccer.
"That goal coming out of the second half, that was the game-winner. That was the difference," Dalton head coach Matt Cheaves said.
The Catamounts didn't score in the final 39:51 of the game, but locked down on defense enough to keep Johns Creek from coming from behind.
The Spartans did get closer, though. With 15:32 left in the game, Kameron Gorst took possession of the ball about 75 yards from the goal, then strung together a series of moves and fakes that eventually left him all alone in front of Dalton keeper Nestor Mendez. Gorst sent it home to tie the game at 2, but Mendez thwarted several key chances for Johns Creek down the stretch.
That goal was Gorst's second of the night. Dalton wasn't the team that got the early score in the first half, as Gorst intercepted a Catamount pass nearly three minutes into the game, getting past a couple of defenders to score.
A Fernando Guerrero shot deflected in at the 25-minute mark of the first half to tie it.
The teams played to a stalemate until six minutes remained in the half. The Johns Creek keeper blocked a Dalton shot, but it landed right in front of Filemon Quintero. Quintero tried a shot, had it blocked, then leaped to connect with the ball and send it into a Johns Creek defender who was standing in goal. That put Dalton up 2-1.
"I was just going at it, going at it," Quintero said. "It was just a relief when it went in."
Quintero is part of a Dalton senior class that has two state championships. The Catamounts won a state title in 2019, then the tournament was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"I knew we were going to come back and win it this year," Quintero said. "I had confidence in my team. It's a great feeling, and it's a good time to be alive right now."
The Catamounts went 23-0 en route to the title that year, and finished undefeated this year. The only blemishes on the Catamount schedule came in their two draws, both of which came against cross-town rival and Class 4A champion Southeast Whitfield.
Along with Dalton and Southeast, Coahulla Creek also won the Class 3A state championship Thursday night, giving Whitfield County three state champions in 2021.
"These guys are a lot of fun to be around," Cheaves said. "They just played with such excellence and got the job done."