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Johnson coasts in playoff opener
Knights beat Troup 10-0 in mercy rule win
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Johnson High’s Edgar Ochoa, right, and Troup County’s Masud Suleman leap to head the ball during the first half of the Knights’ Friday afternoon playoff match with the Tigers at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

OAKWOOD - Already in the state tournament, two top seeds have been defeated by No. 4 seeds, but Johnson made sure it didn't fall victim to that stat on Friday at home against Troup. In fact, the top-seeded Knights looked more like a team that wanted to get the match out of the way so it could attend prom later that night, winning 10-0 in a mercy rule shortened opening round Class AAA playoff contest.

The match ended with 16 minutes remaining in the second half.

The fourth-ranked Knights (15-3), champions of Area 8-AAA, advance to the second round and host the Woodward Academy-Cedartown winner on May 4. Johnson's big win was the first playoff mercy rule victory in program history.

Friday's match was moved to a 4:45 p.m. start time to accommodate Johnson's school prom.

"We had prom, so we wanted to finish off quick," said junior Ariel Mejia, who led the Knights' charge with three goals. "But the good thing is that we played as a team and we did our thing right.

"We played good."

Troup (7-11), the No. 4 seed from Area 6, appeared doomed from the start. With the match a little more than a minute old, Mejia stepped in front of a Troup pass and took a breakaway straight to the keeper, scoring his first goal on a cross shot from the right side.

"That sort of set the tone for the day," Troup coach Peter Anderson said. "We just never could pick ourselves off the mat after that."

Seven minutes later, Benjamin Cervantes crossed a pass to Edgar Ochoa, who headed in the game's second goal from just in front of the goal area. Eight minutes after that, Mejia struck again with a shot to the left corner.

Goals from Ochoa and Israel Azuarra gave the Knights a 5-0 lead with 16 minutes left in the half. With five minutes remaining, Knights coach Brian Shirley rested his starters, and Johnson headed to the locker room with a convincing lead.

The second half was much the same, with the starters retaking the field. Five minutes in, Rigo Mojica scored on a header from an Ochoa pass for a 6-0 Johnson lead. Four minutes later, Mejia completed his hat trick on a breakaway created by a perfectly-placed pass off a free kick from Jesus Muniz, who was in Johnson territory.

At the 22:45 mark, Armando Avarca scored when three Knights closed in on just the keeper as the Troup defense watched helplessly.
Frustrations mounted for Troup, and with 21:30 remaining, Masud Suleman was given a yellow card for knocking down Johnson's Barut Perez inside the goal area. Perez converted the penalty kick, bringing the score to 9-0.

After Perez's goal, Shirley emptied the bench again, and at the 16:32 mark, Jonathan Mendoza's goal ended the game.

"We were solid," Shirley said. "We had a good week in practice, every one came out focused. We knew we couldn't let up, because you never know what's going to happen at state."

Before the game, Shirley warned the Knights that top seeds Lovejoy in Class AAAA and East Coweta in Class AAAAA lost to No. 4 seeds in the first round. He said that opened his team's eyes.

Mejia took notice.

"We made sure to focus on this team only and not worry about what's going to happen next," he said.

The win was also an encouraging sign as the Knights move forward without one of their best players, Juan Morfin, the senior striker who broke his foot March 11 in a match against Franklin County. Shirley said Morfin, who recently shed a mobilization boot, is now jogging and hoping to play if Johnson continues to advance. Shirley characterized Morfin's status for next week as "iffy."

As for Troup, Friday's match signaled the end of a season, as well as a difficult week. The school is located in LaGrange, which was hit hard by Wednesday's deadly tornado. Roads leading to the school were closed, there was a power outage at Troup because of fallen trees and other damage, and the soccer team came into Friday's match having not practiced since Tuesday.

Anderson made it clear, however, that was no excuse for losing.

"It was nothing compared to the way Johnson played today," he said. "I give them credit. They were ready."

 

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