Meet the new Johnson boys soccer team, where each member on the field is just as feared as the next.
Six different Knights scored in top-ranked Johnson’s 6-1 rout over Chestatee Friday at War Eagle Field as Brian Shirley’s side (7-0, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA) earned its second region win of the season.
It was an impressive display from defense to attack from Johnson (7-0, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA), who proved it has several weapons behind senior standout Fabian Abarca.
“We’re pretty deep,” said Shirley. “I know some people want to key in on one or two guys, but it’s huge to have all those different guys on the scoresheet. It helps keep everyone else honest.”
Chestatee fought hard to limit the damage to a 2-0 halftime deficit after senior Kevin Flores notched the opener and Fabian Abarca slotted home an early penalty.
Alex Salazar cut the lead to 2-1 for the War Eagles (3-2, 1-1) when he swept home a bobbled opportunity from a Jaime Ortega free kick in the 47th minute.
But the Knights answered back with a Marco Vazquez strike just two minutes later, followed up by goals from David Flores, Alex Penaloza and Thuan Dinh as Johnson refused to be caught.
“We have two choices,” said Chestatee coach Michael Herrin. “We can wallow in this or we can learn from better teams and move on. We have to be determined. We know that we have moments of great talent, and we can get better.”
Herrin called the loss a “death by a thousand paper cuts,” and it showed early. Senior tandem Edgar Torres found Kevin Flores in the box within the first 10 minutes, allowing Flores to finish with a right-footed effort from eight yards and put Johnson up 1-0.
Abarca nestled his penalty kick attempt into the bottom left corner of the Chestatee box after he was tripped in the box just eight minutes later.
Chestatee midfielder Juval Duran was in the middle of back-to-back golden opportunities as the War Eagles searched for a chance to cut into the lead. Duran smacked a hard shot that ricocheted off the near post in the 31st minute, then set up forward Uriel Rocha with an inviting cross that Rocha couldn’t turn on target.
“We’ve just got to make our shots,” said Herrin. “We have to take advantage of the crosses that we were getting in the first half and make that count.”
Salazar did well to provide a glimmer of hope when he finished off Ortega’s free kick from four yards out. But Rigo Campa put in a strong cross to find Vazquez at the far end, who touched in to gain Johnson’s two-goal cushion with 31 minutes to play.
David Flores provided the highlight of the match when he connected on a 25-yard laser strike that bulged the top corner of the net as Johnson earned a 4-1 lead in the 54th minute.
“I saw the goalie and said ‘This is my shot,’” said Flores. “The passion of playing, I just wanted it to go where it needed to be.”
Abarca slid a searching through ball to Penaloza, who fired from 20 yards out for Johnson’s fifth goal before Dinh headed in a corner to wrap up the scoring.
Juan Diego Rosillio was narrowly denied by Johnson goalkeeper Cooper Bowen with 1:55 left in the second half as Bowen stood strong at his near post.
“Chestatee plays very compact,” said Shirley. “We were hoping to find those gaps more. They’re a very well-coached team, with a young bunch of players. They caught a couple of unlucky breaks, and they’ll bounce back from that.”
The Knights finished with eight shots on goal, compared to Chestatee’s five.
Defender Tony Bermudez was shown a yellow card with 9:24 left in the first half.
Johnson next travels to North Hall on Tuesday and East Hall on Friday. Chestatee will next host North Hall on March 15.
CHESTATEE GIRLS 3, JOHNSON 1: Responding to the untimely injury of one of his quickest strikers, first-year Chestatee coach Ryan Hogue made the right choice.
Hogue pushed up his left-back Merrie Barnett to replace forward Skylar Abbott, who was forced off in the 22nd minute.
Hogue’s move allowed the speedy Barnett to notch the go-ahead goal deep in the second half Friday night as the Lady War Eagles (3-1-1, 1-1 in Region 8-AAAA) earned their first region win of the season.
Barnett ripped a hard shot from just inside the penalty box that slipped through the hands of the Johnson goalkeeper as Chestatee earned a 2-1 lead with 13 minutes left to play.
“We needed to bring up a fast player to help that, and it was what works with our style of play, which is very direct,” said Hogue.
Karlee Weiss later secured a two-goal cushion when she headed home from an Alyssa Yarck corner with 6:18 remaining.
Johnson’s talented freshman Dani Malone helped the Lady Knights (3-3-1, 1-1) tie the game at 1-1 in the 24th minute when she connected with a strong strike from left to right.
That helped to cancel out the opening goal from Abbott, who did well to invade the right side of the Chestatee defense in the third minute of play.
After Abbott was forced off through injury, Barnett pushed forward in attack and provided the edge Chestatee needed down the left wing.
“The girls started executing the things that we’ve been working on,” said Hogue. “Making good runs, connecting passes, playing smart.”
Hogue took over the Chestatee girls soccer program in the offseason after longtime veteran Mark Dunn retired last summer.
Chestatee is halfway through a four-game home region stretch that will next include Stephens County on Tuesday and North Hall on March 15.
Johnson next travels to play North Hall on Tuesday.