GAINESVILLE — A team can’t win a soccer game without scoring, that goes without saying, but sometimes it’s a team’s defense that actually wins the game.
Case in point: West Hall’s 2-0 win over Johnson on Thursday evening in the Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup at Chestatee High.
The Knights came in fresh off an 8-0 drubbing of Winder-Barrow, but thanks to the stellar defense of Chandler Ligas, Israel Del Toro, Luis Cervantes, Chris Lewis, Antonio Ramirez and Alex Munoz, the Spartans were able to shut out the high-powered offense of Johnson.
Solid play by Spartans’ goalie Jamie King finished the job that the defense in front of him started. King had 10 saves including a diving stop going to his left in the first half and a diving, finger-tip save with 12 minutes to go in the game.
"Jamie King played great," Jager said. "He played strong on the line.
"I have all the respect in the world for Johnson, they are a great team. It was a well-earned win and we had to fight for it."
Johnson had 30 shots on goal for the night, most of them richocheting off West Hall’s defensemen who spared no bodily expense when it came to nullifying Johnson’s offense.
"There are spirited people who play spirited defense for us," West Hall coach Wolfgang Jager said. "Del Toro was very good at sweeper. We had our hands full."
Thanks to the win, West Hall will play Apalachee in the championship game of the Cup at 7 p.m. Saturday at Chestatee High.
Johnson will play in the third place game against Buford at 5 p.m. Saturday at Chestatee.
The game remained scoreless until the 36th minute of the first half when, with players expecting a whistle and stoppage of play after a Johnson player went down with an injury, the break-neck pace of the game slowed.
With the exception of one player, West Hall’s Chris Lewis, who continued to play at full speed and hit a shot from just outside the box that just got by Johnson goalie Alan Garcia, who had also slowed expecting a whistle.
The Knights had two chances to tie the game at one goal a piece before the break but both breakaway, wide-open, attempts by two of Johnson’s most accurate forwards were shot wide of the goal.
The first came off the foot of Sammy Vargas and was wide left of the goal, the second mis-hit was with 10 seconds to go in the first half when Franky Zuniga missed on his only breakaway attempt of the night.
Zuniga’s shot went wide right of the goal.
The Spartans would not add to their lead until the 71st minute of the match when, on a corner kick, Juan Arbataez crossed the ball to Rudy Vazquez who, despite being marked solidly, headed the pall past the outstretched arms of Garcia.