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Johnson shuts out eighth-ranked West Hall
West Hall’s Gerson Mejia, left, and Johnson High’s Inmer Vanegas chase down the ball during the second half of the Knights’ win Thursday afternoon’s game at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times
What a week it has been for the Johnson High boys soccer team.

Fresh off handing Class AAA’s fourth-ranked Lumpkin County its first loss of the season on Tuesday, the Knights stunned another ranked opponent, this time defeating eighth-ranked and long-time rival West Hall 2-0 on Thursday at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.

With the win, the Knights (8-3, 5-2 Area 7-AAA) move into second place in the area standings, only half a game behind the Spartans (9-3, 6-2).

“We were fired up and ready to play,” Johnson coach Brian Shirley said. “We’re trying to get into better position to get to our ultimate goal of making state.”

The Knights broke a three-game losing streak against their neighbors, dating back to 2006.

“This is a good, clean rivalry,” Shirley said. “A lot of these kids know each other on the field and off the field. We didn’t lose on our own field tonight.”

Johnson didn’t let another ranked opponent intimidate it, but it didn’t make things any easier either. Both teams had several scoring opportunities throughout the game.

“I knew they (West Hall) were going to come out fired up after the Gainesville win,” Shirley said. “I told the guys to be ready for their target players.”

After a back-and-forth battle for the first 30 minutes of play, Vicente Trujillo scored the Knights’ first goal on a mishandled save attempt in the 31st minute. He finished the day with a goal and an assist for Johnson.

“Vicente is coming off from a nagging injury,” Shirley said. “He’s finally gotten healthy, and now he’s playing as good as he ever has.”

The second half began much like the first, with scoring opportunities but no goals. It wasn’t until the 72nd minute that a Trujillo found an open Carlos Casas charging up midfield, who slipped through the West Hall defense to bury a shot for a 2-0 Johnson lead.

Along with Trujillo’s performance and Casas’ goal, sophomore Ariel Mejia also recorded an assist. Goalkeeper Luis Carrero recorded the shutout in goal for the Knights, holding off a Spartan surge in the second half.

“He played phenomenal,” Shirley said of junior goalie. “He played very well in the second half.”

Johnson looks to build on its recent success when it opens the Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup against Buford at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Allen Creek Soccer Complex. West Hall also plays in the Cup against Riverside Military at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

West Hall girls 5, Johnson 0

The Lady Spartans didn’t waste any time to earn an area win, scoring four goals in the first half to put Johnson away early Thursday.

West Hall (6-5, 2-5 Area 7-AAA), which had lost four of its last five coming into the game, got back into winning form quickly, taking a 1-0 lead only two minutes into the game when freshman Tania Perez took a shot from close range that found the back of the net.

“That really helped us,” Lady Spartans coach Gareth Allcott said. “The game plan was to press hard in the first half and see where that takes us.”

Perez was part of West Hall’s second goal, which came only 13 minutes later. She found fellow freshman Brooke Reed on a breakaway, who fired a shot past the Johnson goalkeeper give the Lady Spartans a 2-0 lead.

“We have great hopes for her (Perez),” Allcott said.

West Hall scored two more goals within two minutes late in the first half, with Sarah Gibson finding Jessica Jaimes in the 31st minute and McKenzie Jackson firing a long-distance shot that sailed into the net in the 33rd minute.

“4-0 at halftime is always good,” Allcott said. “But you’re always worried that the team will take their foot off the gas.”

They didn’t. Instead, the Lady Spartans continued to own possession in the second half and limited time in their own end.

“What was really pleasing is that we kept to game plan and we kept pressing,” Allcott said. “In the second half, we had most of the possession again.”

West Hall scored its final goal in the 59th minute, when Shannon Mundy sent a high shot into the Johnson (6-4, 3-4) zone, where it was misjudged by the Lady Knights’ goalkeeper and bounced into the net to bring the final score to 5-0.

Meanwhile, West Hall goalkeeper Morgan Peacock handled all the shots she faced, recording the Lady Spartans’ third shutout of the year.

West Hall opens the Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup against Apalachee at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Chestatee High. Johnson visits Osborne at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
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