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Chestatee boys edge Johnson in penalty kicks
Lady War Eagles win in OT
Arnold Gamez, left, of Chestatee, and Israel Avila, of Johnson, battle for control of the ball during the game at Chestatee Friday night. - photo by Tom Reed

Chestatee goalkeeper Andres Olivas made a big save in regulation just to get the game to overtime, another in overtime to get to penalty kicks, and another early in penalty kicks to keep the War Eagles alive.

His reward?

With the score tied 4-4 after the first five penalty kicks, he watched as Johnson’s sixth penalty kick attempt sailed high and wide — the first missed shot in PKs by either team — followed by Edwin Villafranco’s game-winning penalty kick in the left corner to secure the War Eagles’ 1-0 win over the Knights.

The win keeps seventh-ranked Chestatee (10-1, 4-0) undefeated in Region 8-AAAA and at least temporarily vaults the War Eagles into first place, while handing fellow top-10 ranked Hall County team Johnson (8-2-1, 4-1), ranked third in the latest coaches poll, its first region loss.

It also keeps Olivas and the rest of the players’ dreams of a region title alive.

“It’s our senior year, and we’re trying to be region champs for the first time in school history,” he said.

As in the victory over Gainesville earlier in the season, Olivas played a big part in the win. The backup goalkeeper last year, he has grabbed hold of the starting job in his final year and is making his presence felt.

“He’s been great on net this year,” Chestatee coach Michael Herrin said. “In the Gainesville game he really stepped up in the net, and this is his second big game.”

Olivas didn’t allow a ball to reach the back of his net until Johnson’s Alberto Deltoro led off penalty kicks with a shot to the top left. Johnson goalkeeper Alan Morales saved Chestatee’s first PK, briefly putting the Knights ahead.

But after two PKs allowed, Olivas dove to his right to block Johnson’s third try and Chestatee’s Roldan Reyes responded with a goal to even it back up at 2-2. It would stay even through the rest of the first five penalty kick tries, sending the game to the sudden-death sequence.

Olivas was expecting to either make the save or give up a goal on the sixth shot.

“I was surprised,” he said. “He’s a good player and I didn’t think he’d miss it.”

But Olivas watched the ball sail wide, and he said he simply put faith in his guys to come through.

He had already done his work for the night, now he could celebrate.

Herrin was just relieved to get the win.

“We’ve won and lost in penalty kicks, and it’s always tough to see a team lose like that,” he said. “We’re just grateful to get through tonight.”

The game was as even as a contest between two state-ranked teams could be for most of the night.

Chestatee maintained control throughout most of the first 20 minutes of the game, but could only manage one shot on goal — three shots total — in the time period, while Johnson stayed back and deflected the War Eagles’ chances.

Johnson finally brought pressure in the 20th minute with the Knights tallying their first shot of the game. Israel Avila fed two dangerous balls into the middle for Jonathan Gillham soon after, but the Knights weren’t able to capitalize, with one shot going wide and a header also missing the mark.

The rest of the half went back and forth, with neither side having much of an opportunity to break the deadlock.

Johnson grabbed the momentum to open the second half and had four corner kicks to take advantage. The third one, a kick by Jorge Hernandez with 26 minutes remaining, sailed to Bryant Anaya, whose header bounced to the bottom right corner of the Chestatee goal but was denied access by Olivas on a diving save.

Chestatee finally put the pressure on at the end of the second half and forced the Johnson keeper to make a pair of saves on on-target headers, but the War Eagles couldn’t stop the game from going to overtime.

“I looked at our stat sheet, and it was pretty much an even game in pretty much everything with 10 minutes left,” Herrin said.

Olivas kept it even in overtime, making the biggest play with two minutes left in the second half of overtime. Deltoro managed to dribble along the sideline toward the Chestatee goal before passing to Anaya in the box, whose shot Olivas blocked at point-blank range.

It was the last real opportunity to keep the game from penalty kicks.

CHESTATEE GIRLS 2, JOHNSON 1, OT: War Eagles senior Alexis Rebollar scored with 1:03 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, and then headed in a corner kick from Sadie Foote with 12 seconds left in the first half of overtime to keep Chestatee undefeated in Region 8-AAAA.

After a scoreless first half, Chandler Steele fired a long free kick that deflected off the Chestatee goalkeeper and into the goal for a 1-0 Johnson lead with 30 minutes remaining.

Chestatee (8-3, 4-0) tallied five shots in regulation and just two on goal, the second of those being Rebollar’s strike, which she made after weaving through the defense for a 1-on-1 chance with the Johnson goalkeeper.

Johnson (4-6-1, 3-2) had 11 shots in regulation, eight of them in regulation. Chestatee starting goalkeeper Melanie Smith saved four shots but also allowed the goal and was replaced by Shelia Hernandez with 17 minutes remaining in regulation. Hernandez saved four more shots to preserve the win.

Both teams stay in region play for next Tuesday’s matches. Chestatee visits Lumpkin County in Dahlonega, with the boys playing the first game at 5:30 p.m., and Johnson hosts Walnut Grove in Oakwood.

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