Juan Mejia was surprised to even get a shot away when a rebound fell to him with eight minutes gone in Saturday’s win over East Hall.
So the 5-foot-4 sophomore didn’t know how to react when his own crisp volley rocketed into the upper 90 of the Vikings goal, all but ensuring Chestatee a 4-0 non-region win at home that keeps the War Eagles (6-0) undefeated.
“They had good defense, so I thought, with my size, I wasn’t expecting to get a shot away,” he said. “I was mind blown. I can’t believe it, my heart stopped.”
Mejia scored twice in eight minutes after Jonathan Pedraza opened the game with his 14-yard strike past East Hall goalkeeper Amir Solis (five saves). Freshman striker Mateus Jennings had the goal of the game when his booming 30-yard shot went in, handing East Hall its first loss in 11 days.
The Vikings (5-3) were slow from the beginning, but striker Leo Toledo nearly turned the momentum early in the second half when he fought his way to the byline and got a shot away that had to be cleared off the goal line by Chestatee’s Jaime Ortega. Sherman Lucero saw his free kick cannon off the crossbar, but the War Eagles had wrapped up a confidence-boosting win long before.
“Juan is a guy who’s really blossoming,” said Chestatee coach Michael Herrin. “He works hard, and he’s still learning. We’ve talked about our team respecting each opponent and playing them hard. All it took for (East Hall) was to get a chance, and they could turn it around.”
The War Eagles took advantage of each chance the Vikings gave them. East Hall, ranked No. 8 in Class AAA, gave up possession on the edge of its box with less than six minutes gone, allowing Pedraza to fire home with a shot that wrong footed Solis on the way in.
Freshman Austin Manzo took an optimistic strike from long-range less than two minutes later, which Solis parried away to Mejia, who was on his toes just outside the penalty box.
Mejia would follow up his first brilliant strike with another in the 17th minute. A corner by Pedraza found the sophomore in open space before he launched a perfectly-weighted chip to the top left of Solis’ goal.
A 25-yard free kick saw Lucero hit the bar, minutes after the Vikings registered their first shot on goal. But Jennings’ audacious attempt from long range gave Chestatee its fourth goal in 36 minutes.
“We came out sloppy,” said Toledo, one of East Hall’s few bright sparks of the game. “We were scared, it was the undefeated record that came in and we didn’t have the intensity we needed in the beginning. It’s frustrating when we can’t connect or keep the pace together.”
It was Toledo who managed to wriggle his way past two Chestatee defenders on the right wing and get to the byline two minutes into the second half. He slipped a left-footed attempt through the legs of Miguel Calderon, but Ortega was quick to slide in at the right time and stop the ball from rolling in.
“I thought it had crossed the line,” said Toledo. “But the referees weren’t there. A goal like that could have changed the momentum of the game.”
The War Eagles have recorded three shutouts so far this season, thanks to opportunistic defending like Ortega’s. While
East Hall outshot Chestatee 7-6 in the second half, the Vikings could only get two shots on goal in the final 40 minutes.
Chestatee will host Buford on Tuesday, while East Hall hosts Rabun County.
Mejia celebrated his goals with a broad smile on his face. The last time he scored, it was a game-winner against Cedar Shoals in 2014. He said he had felt nervous playing regularly as a freshman, but has relished getting to know his teammates better. That gives Mejia confidence that Chestatee can best last year’s first-round state playoff exit.
“I think we can go to the finals this year,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard, and I think we’ve got what it takes.”
CHESTATEE GIRLS 7, EAST HALL 0: Taylor Buffington recorded her first career hat-trick in a historic win for War Eagles coach Mark Dunn.
Buffington, a junior midfielder, scored three of Chestatee’s first four goals within 14 minutes to rout the Lady Vikings as
Dunn earned his 300th win as a coach between Johnson and Chestatee High.
Dunn coached the boys soccer team at Johnson from 1982 to 2005, and has amassed 99 victories so far at Chestatee. He’ll go for win No. 100 when Chestatee hosts region rival Buford on Tuesday.
“We’re very happy for him, Coach really deserves it,” said Buffington. “We need to give it our all for the rest of the season so we can give him another state patch.”
The Lady War Eagles (5-2) scored all seven goals in the first half before the two teams played a shortened second half.
Megan Dew had a pair of strikes with less than 14 minutes left in the first half, while Alyssa Yarck and Samantha
Addington also scored to earn Chestatee’s fifth straight win.
The Lady Vikings (1-7) are on a five-game losing streak and haven’t won since March 2. They host Rabun County on Tuesday in a region match.