Calhoun coach Matt Rice said one of his team’s biggest emphasis early in the season is to focus less on individual skill and more on working as one cohesive, smooth unit on the field.
The Jackets put that strategy to good use on Tuesday as they played a balanced, unselfish game to get almost every player on the field involved offensively or defensively in a dominant 6-0 non-region victory at home over Cedartown.
Calhoun (2-2) used patience to set up scoring chances and communication on the back end from their goalkeeper and defenders to erase most Cedartown offensive threats before they got started. Rice said he was extremely pleased with how his team performed in the win.
“I thought it was a good team win,” said Rice. “Our guys didn’t care who scored, they were just content on applying what we have been doing in practice, kept pressing and after we put one in the net, we didn’t let up. We are starting to work together more, playing fast and playing as a team. I’m very proud of these guys tonight.
“We’re looking at every game as part of a process. If we focus on getting better and putting the team first each week, once we get to region and state play, we’ll be right where we need to be.”
Calhoun controlled possession from the start of the game and had a few chances in the first 20 minutes of the first half, but they were turned away on solid saves by Cedartown’s goalkeeper. The Jackets finally broke through in the 24th minute on a goal by Daniel Isep to put them ahead.
A couple minutes later, Calhoun extended their lead on a goal from Gerardo Fraire that was set up by a precise crossing pass from Isep for the assist. Oscar Huerta got on the scoring sheet with a goal in the 31st minute to make it 3-0, which was the Jackets’ advantage at the half.
Early in the second half, Fraire found the back of the net once again to make it 4-0, and then a pair of Alex Avalos goals in the 55th minute and 65th minute finished off the dominant scoring line.
The Jackets’ defensive unit was stellar as they stepped up to the challenge the few times they were tested as Calhoun held possession for much of the contest. Goalkeepers Eduardo Fajardo, Alonzo Purvis and Jame Vo combined for the shutout in goal. Rice said with a lot of experience back in the defensive unit, he expects them to be very formidable this season.
“We have our entire defense returning from last year, and three of those guys are three-year starters,” said Rice. “They know how to play together and support each other. Cedartown is pretty strong up top, but our guys played their responsibilities and made sure we had them marked. We didn’t give them any real scoring opportunities as we stopped those before they really got started.”
It has been an up and down start to the season for the Jackets as they have been competitive against solid competition, defeating East Paulding and losing close games to Wesleyan and Northwest Whitfield, but they also lost starting midfielder Josue Buendia to a knee injury in the opener. Rice said losing a talented player like that was a tough pill to swallow for himself and the players, but they are using the early-season tests to try to fill Buendia’s void and figure out where each player helps the team most.
“It’s been tough losing Josue, but our guys have rallied together from that,” said Rice. “It will be hard to replace him, but we’re figuring out who needs to be where. People are stepping in and figuring out where they need to be to help the most. We’ve got depth and talent, but just that alone isn’t enough to get wins all the time. We’re starting to see that. The lineup tonight did the job and worked as a team. I’m not sure if that will be the lineup once we get into region play or even next week, but we’ll continue to work to give ourselves the best chance to win. And our bench came in tonight in a support role and played well too.
“We want to continue to move beyond skill and be more sophisticated in scheme. If we can do that, it will help us down the road. We want to find a way to play our best going forward.”
Calhoun will visit Heritage on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and then play at Coosa on Friday at 5 p.m. They open Region 6-AAA play on March 6 at home against Coahulla Creek at 7 p.m.