With his team off to a slow start, West Hall coach Wolfgang Jager stood on the sidelines hoping for a momentum changing play.
That play came in just the second minute of the game when senior goalie Jamie King stopped a penalty kick from Johnson’s Vicente Trujillo which not only kept the Knights off the scoreboard, but gave the Spartans the energy boost they needed.
“Our team needed to find a rhythm,” Jager said. “That save was a game turner.”
It was also a game saver.
King and the Spartans’ defense held Johnson scoreless for the duration of the game and when Rudy Vasquez redirected a header from Felix Ramirez into the goal in the 62nd minute, that momentum paid off to the tune of a 1-0 win over Johnson and a Northeast Mountains Cup title.
“It’s good to get the win, but I’d rather have it in region play,” King said. “But we’ll take the Mountain Cup any day.”
At the time King didn’t know that his save on the penalty kick would ultimately decide who won the title, he just watched Trujillo’s set up and took a guess.
“I just picked the side that I thought he was favoring and guessed,” said King, who recorded seven saves in the win. “I guess I guessed right.”
The save was just what eighth-ranked West Hall (12-4) needed as the team, most notably midfielder Juan Arbelaez, pestered the Johnson defense with several shot attempts. But those shots either went high, wide, bounced off the cross bar or were saved by Johnson goalie Alan Garcia, who finished with seven saves on the night.
Arbelaez was named co-MVP of the tournament along with Johnson’s Inmer Venegas.
“I give Johnson all the credit in the world,” Jager said. “But our guys wanted this thing bad.”
As did the sixth-ranked Knights (12-4), who nearly scored late in the first half when a Chris Henry header hit the crossbar. That crossbar prevented another Johnson goal in the 60th minute when Alberto Olvera hit it on a free kick.
Two minutes later, Vasquez scored the game winner.
“Winning this tournament is great,” Jager said. “I really like the way my team came back after such a long layoff.”
Both the Knights and the Spartans will have another long layoff with Spring Break this week, and when the two teams return to the field they will be faced with difficult opponents with playoff positions and a possible region title on the line.
Johnson plays host to Gainesville at 7:30 p.m. April 14, while West Hall plays host to Creekview.
“We’re kind of looking at Creekview as the first round of state,” King said.
Chestatee 4, Riverside Military 0
Jorge Ramos scored two goals to lead the War Eagles to a third place finish in the Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup on Friday at Chestatee High.
Kevin Stradley scored on a penalty kick and Jay Williams scores the final goal for Chestatee (7-10).
Ryan Doss and Gustavo Sanchez combined for the shutout.
Chestatee ends the season against Lumpkin County on April 14. Riverside (10-5) will next play in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs.