Canes dominate Red Raiders, punch ticket to Sweet 16
The Cartersville boys soccer team has a five-minute rule, and it led to a five-goal haul Friday night.
Head coach D.J. Paradis emphasizes the 300-second segment at the beginning and end of each half, as well as the first five minutes after a goal. His team dominated those intervals Friday night, scoring each of its goals during one of them, to land a 5-1 victory over Madison County in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament.
“That’s when you have to be at your best,” Paradis said of those five-minute stretches. “You have to have your head on a swivel and know where everything is going. Some of our best opportunities came after we scored a goal. We went right back on the immediate attack. That was the biggest thing for us. We were able to apply pressure, take the ball away, and then create chances.”
Cartersville peppered the Madison County goal relentlessly in the first half. But as time wound down on the Weinman Stadium scoreboard, the Canes had nothing to show for it.
Just as it seemed No. 2 seed Cartersville would enter halftime tied with its third-seeded visitors, Pedro Ghanem showed why he’s the best player in Bartow County.
The reigning Daily Tribune News Player of the Year forced a turnover inside the Red Raiders’ box and calmly slotted the ball into the corner for a 1-0 lead. The strike came with just 4 minutes, 39 seconds left until halftime.
“It was a huge relief,” Paradis said of the goal. “We had put so many shots on goal, had the bulk of possession. You can’t let teams stay in the game, you have to put them down, quickly. The longer they stay, the harder it gets.
“I’m proud of my boys. They played hard in the first half. They took some shots; they took some chances; and they just kept fighting.”
The Canes (8-7) made a fast start to the second half, with Ghanem chipping over the crossbar just 10 seconds after the restart. Brady Craig saw his shot saved by the Red Raiders goalkeeper’s foot roughly two minutes later.
Just over four minutes into the period, Elian Abeja sent in a long-range effort that found the back of the net to double Cartersville’s lead. The Canes went for the jugular, as Ghanem was dragged down for a penalty just 15 seconds later.
However, the goalie saved Ricardo Torres’ spot kick to keep the Red Raiders (5-9-2) alive. Madison County took advantage of the miss, pulling within 2-1 on an outstanding free kick in the 53rd minute.
Cartersville could have shown some nerves at that point. Instead, Paradis saw his guys heed his rule.
“My guys kept their heads up; they kept playing; and they kept fighting,” Paradis said. “We limited their chances afterward, and we kept our fouls to a minimum. We got plenty of opportunities. We had 30 shots this game, most of them coming in the second half. About two-thirds of our shots were probably on frame.”
A couple of those came in quick succession following the Red Raiders’ lone tally. In the 56th minute, Ghanem scored off a nice Torres assist over the top of the defense. Abeja struck again from distance in the 59th minute to essentially wrap up the victory.
Almost exactly five minutes after Abeja’s second goal, he powered in a corner kick that John Robinson directed into the back of the net to complete the dominant effort.
“This was one of our better offensive showings,” Paradis said. “Madison is a good team. They defend well; they play hard. We were able to find the openings and attack the space. We made them pay for what they gave up to us.”
While the offense will earn plenty of plaudits for its performance, as well it should, the Cartersville defense kept Madison County’s chances to a minimum. The Red Raiders had some dangerous moments, but the Canes truly controlled proceedings throughout.
Paradis gave a lot of credit to his veterans that make up the backline and defensive midfield. The group never really let Madison County get comfortable on the ball and seemed to thwart any semblance of an attack.
“I think our defensive mids were able to cut out the balls,” Paradis said. “We took the ball out of the air and didn’t let them go long. We knew their style of attack was to put it deep and put pressure on us. We just got it away before they could put pressure on our defenders.”
The resounding win sets up a matchup Paradis has been looking forward to since April 16. That’s the day Cartersville lost 3-1 to Southeast Whitfield inside Weinman Stadium.
Paradis and Co. will get a chance at revenge, when it travels to face the Raiders (16-4) next Thursday in Dalton. It won’t be an easy game, by any stretch, considering Southeast Whitfield is the Region 7-AAAAA champion and ranked No. 4 in class, but Friday’s display gives the team plenty of reason to be optimistic.
“A win like this, especially with the goal output, we can step on the field and know we can score,” Paradis said. “Defensively, we just know we have to limit the mistakes, play a sound, team game, and turn them over quickly. Momentum is always key. [Southeast Whitfield] had the win, but we knew we played right with them.
“This game showed us that we can attack. We’ve been getting the goals lately; we just hadn’t been getting the results. This win is everything. You lose your done, but a win like this is priceless.”