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Johnson boys soccer outlasts West Hall, 2-1

POSTED: March 21, 2014 10:09 p.m.
Jared Putnam/The Times

Johnson's Fidel Rodriguez, left, and West Hall's Jordan Moreno battle for position on Friday at Spartan Field in Oakwood. The Knights defeated the Spartans 2-1.

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OAKWOOD — One of Hall County’s most fierce and competitive soccer rivalries lived up to the billing on Friday night at Spartan Field.

Not only was it the annual rivalry matchup between the Johnson boys and West Hall, a pair of schools separated by less than five miles, but it was also a non-region showdown between a pair of highly competitive ranked teams inside their respective classifications.

Johnson, ranked second in Class AAAA, used a goal from Luis Hernandez with 15 minutes remaining to break a tied game and secure a 2-1 win over rival West Hall, ranked 5th in Class AAA.

“My cousin plays for (West Hall), so it is a family rivalry too,” Hernandez said after the game. “I enjoy beating them. It’s a family thing.”

Hernandez’s goal in the 66th minute gave the Knights (9-0) the final edge they needed in what was a close and competitive game that Johnson seemed to start taking over as the minutes ran off the clock.

In the second half, Johnson started to close the gaps it had allowed West Hall (6-3-2) in the opening 40 minutes, increasing its defensive intensity and putting pressure on the Spartans.

It was that increase in defensive intensity that was a major factor, including setting up Hernandez’s game-winning goal.

“The whole team worked great in the second half,” said Johnson coach Brian Shirley. “We gave up too much space in the first half, we gave up too much room to hit their counter attacks.

“The second half we came in, cut the space down and the work off the ball was much harder. So it doesn’t surprise me that’s how the second goal was — just being scrappy.”

Johnson, which scored a total of 18 goals in its previous two games, wasn’t quite able to keep to its thunderous pace on Friday night. A large reason for that was West Hall’s level of play, which both Hernandez and Shirley admitted was probably the best the Knights had faced all season.

Luckily, the Knights were able to slowly take control in the second half, and take advantage of the ball in front of the goal in the closing minutes, keeping alive their undefeated season.

“West Hall is a quality team,” Shirley said. “I know they’ve had a couple of close ones they thought the past couple of weeks. So I knew they were going to come out and wanting to make a statement.”

Johnson took a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 26th minute, when Fabian Abarca trickled the ball past West Hall goalkeeper Cesar Villa, despite falling to the ground in the process.

West Hall, though, was able to recover and knot the game at 1-1 at halftime. The Spartans used a long cross-field pass from Omar Castillo to set up Adan Castillo in the 30th minute to score the goal.

JOHNSON GIRLS 3, WEST HALL 0: After a scoreless first half, the Lady Knights scored three goals in a span of 10 minutes to earn a non-region victory on Friday night.

With both teams being held without a goal in the opening 40 minutes, it took Johnson (3-5-1) just over five minutes into the second half to find its first goal of the game, coming off the leg of center midfielder Chandler Steele, who was rewarded a penalty kick in the game’s 46th minute.

After the Lady Knights avoided some close West Hall (3-7-1) scoring chances — including a shot that bounced off the post of an open goal — Johnson reasserted its dominance with back-to-back goals in a span of less than two minutes.

Evelin Aviata broke away from all the defenders and ran around out the West Hall goalkeeper in the 55th minute to put Johnson ahead 2-0. Then, Kelsey Dumanowsky scored on a kick from 30 yards out, sailing it over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net.


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