OAKWOOD - It took the Johnson boys soccer team 11 minutes and 47 seconds to overcome a lead it took North Hall 50 minutes to build.
Down 2-0 with 16 minutes to go in the game the sixth-ranked Knights offense exploded, scoring three goals in a matter of minutes en route to a 3-2 win against North Hall on Tuesday night at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.
With the win, Johnson moves into a three-way tie with Creekview and West Hall for first place in Region 7-AAA.
"When I met with the kids at the beginning of the season, they thought they didn’t play with a lot of heart last year," said first-year Johnson (11-3, 6-2 Region 7-AAA) coach Brian Shirley, "so we wanted to change that."
The change of heart was evident Tuesday night.
The Trojans took an early lead when, in the 28th minute, Brandon Duarte shot an uncontested ball from 20-yards out to right over Johnson goalie Luis Carrero’s head.
From that point forward, the majority of North Hall’s time was spent on the defensive. The Trojans were able to maintain their 1-0 lead through the half thanks to stellar defensive efforts by Payne Wright, Justin Burrus, Cody Pfister, David Marin and goalie Daniel Powers.
The five managed to hold Johnson, which came in averaging three goals a game, scoreless through the first 20 minutes of the game despite the Knights’ 12 shots on goal.
"We had opportunities in the first half," Shirley said. "We just couldn’t capitalize on them."
North Hall (8-5-1, 5-4) made it 2-0 10 minutes into the second half when Marcos Llanas shot the ball across the goal and just past the reach of a diving Carrero.
It was because of the skill of one defender that Johnson was down only 2-0 at the 30-minute mark.
Five minutes prior to North Hall’s Llanas making it 2-0, Johnson’s Inmer Venegas headed a certain score out of the net after Carrero left his post to deflect a cross.
The game took a more physical turn when Johnson became desperate.
Contact was made with every won ball, bodies were checked on every dribble.
The Knights finally got on the board with 16:16 left in the game when Chris Henry’s throw-in from 25-yards out found the back of the net.
A throw-in itself cannot result in a goal, however, when touched by someone on the playing field, the ball is considered in play and thus Johnson made it 2-1.
Two minutes and 38 seconds later, Ruben Castro tied it on a breakaway goal.
"I told the team throughout to keep their heads up and play hard," Shirley said. "I didn’t want them to give up, but to keep fighting hard."
Shirley’s message, along with his team’s newfound heart, culminated with Juan Morfin’s winning goal with three minutes left in the game.
"(This win) was huge," Shirley said. "We knew we would be in a hole if we didn’t come out and succeed in this game."
Johnson returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Chestatee. North Hall next plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville.
North Hall girls 4, Johnson 0
Allie Wright scored two goals off assists from Bradee Burrell and Tess Patton to lead the Lady Trojans to a win and their fourth straight region title Tuesday night at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in Oakwood.
Patton and Julia Matthews also added scores for third-ranked North Hall (12-2, 9-0 Region 7-AAA) with Matthews coming as the final buzzer sounded.
For the game, North Hall out-shot Johnson (6-5, 3-5) 24-8.
The Lady Trojans return to action at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville while Johnson next plays at %:30 p.m. Thursday at Chestatee.