Hector Holguin admitted late in the season that his Southeast Whitfield High School boys’ football team sometimes needed a little adversity to play their best.
The Raiders, or Rage as the team prefers to be known, proved their coach right after they overcame a second-half man-down situation early Thursday night after a red card to place in the GHSA AAAA class to get past intracounty rivals Northwest Whitfield 2-1 in the championship game at Mercer University in Macon.
The state title is the second straight and third overall for Southeast (19-2-3), who won their first crown in 2017. Holguin’s team overcame the loss of two key starters to injury early in the regular season, which ended with a 3-2 overtime win at Northwest that saw the Raiders score twice in the second half of the extra session.
Diego Ramirez, a reserve for Southeast, scored the title-winning goal after intercepting a pass from the Northwest goaltender and blasting a one-timer from 25 yards into the top right corner of the net with 16:53 left. The Raiders had maintained an aggressive approach, rather than dropping back to protect the tie, despite losing Erick Rios to the red card just over three minutes into half-time, ending the last 20 minutes with five shots on goal.
Southeast took a 1-0 lead in less than two minutes of the first half when Diego Castillo headed home an Angel Garcia free-kick that hit Castillo in the crotch within 10 yards. Northwest dominated for most of the first half, ending with a 7-2 advantage on shots, including two good looks from the season’s top scorer, Nico Cuna, one of which hit the bar.
The Raiders took the lead despite a sloppy 40 minutes in which they committed 10 fouls and were caught offside five times.
The red card breathed new life into the Bruins in the second half, resulting in three set pieces in a row. The third equalized when Cuna’s free-kick was headed in by Matthew Molina. However, Northwest (15-6-1) failed to capitalize on the extra man and it proved costly as Ramirez sent home their winner 19 minutes later.
The Bruins wanted the program’s second state title; They won the AAAA championship in 2018.
Either way, Whitfield County had to emerge from the showdown Thursday with another state champion from a program within its borders. On Tuesday, Dalton Academy won the Class A public school freshman-year title, and in Friday’s Class AAAAAA finals, the Dalton High School Catamounts meet Lassiter for a shot at their third straight state title and seventh overall to win.
Last year, Coahulla Creek won the AAA title and gave the county three state champions—a feat that will happen again soon.
8 Pike County, 7 Sonoraville: In the deciding game of a best-of-three series in the second round of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs, the Phoenix bounced back from a 4-0 seven-run deficit in the sixth inning, but the hosts tied with three at the end of the half and one in the seventh to advance to next week’s quarterfinals.
Zach Lyles hit the big sixth inning for Sonoraville (23-9) with a two-run double, with Jaxon Pate and Cole Gross adding RBI singles. Josh Buffington and Coleman Johnson had RBI singles for Pike County (30-4) to make it a one-run game before Buffington stole home with a double steal to tie it.
In the seventh, two errors and a deliberate walk strained the base for the Pirates, who won when the Phoenix made another error in the infield.
Pate was 4-for-4 with an RBI, Lyles was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run, and Gross added two hits, an RBI and a run for Sonoraville.
McCallie 18, Chattanooga Christian 1: In a TSSAA regular season match, Nolan Sergeant drove in five heats while Ethan Crump and Sebastian Leinberger each plated two heats for the Blue Tornado. Winning pitcher Austin Breedlove hit eight batters in four innings.
Baylor 12, Boyd Buchanan 2: A first inning of 10 runs put the Red Raiders in control, and they also added a run in each of the next two innings on their way to a lopsided win on Wednesday. Henry Godbout had three hits and four RBIs to lead Baylor, and Carson Yates also drove in four runs.
Chattanooga Christian 4, Knoxville Webb 3: Erin Matthews went 3-on-4 with three RBIs, Hannah Smith was 2-on-4 with two runs scored and McKaine Layne drove one run. Winning pitcher Autumn Hughes went 6 2/3 innings, straying three hits and knocking out 11 batsmen.
Boyd Buchanan 4, CAK 3: Cai Cai Butler went 2-on-3 with two RBIs, and Kinley Ervin hit 14 as the Lady Buccaneers defeated the Christian Academy of Knoxville in a Division II-A East Region game, though they were beaten 7-4.
Compiled by Stephen Hargis and Lindsey Young. Contact them at email@example.com.