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Top-ranked Johnson boys soccer blanks Chestatee, 4-0
Perez scores twice for Knights in major region battle
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Chestatee’s Arnold Gamez and Johnson’s Fidel Rodriguez parry near midfield in the first half Friday night at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium. - photo by Nat Gurley | The Times

Johnson’s boys soccer players didn’t let a new No. 1 ranking go to their heads.

Instead, the Knights made a massive statement to the rest of Class AAAA.

Barut Perez scored two goals, Fabian Abarca and Luis Deltoro each added another and Johnson beat fifth-ranked Chestatee 4-0 in Friday’s crucial Region 8-AAAA game.

The Knights (12-0, 5-0) made their debut at Class AAAA’s top-ranked position Monday, replacing season-long No. 1 Dalton, and delivered with a surprisingly one-sided game against a powerful War Eagles team.

Not that Johnson coach Brian Shirley is concerned with his team’s ranking in late March.

“We don’t read too much into that right now,” Shirley said. “They know it’s nice to be recognized. We talk to them about it, and we have the recognition right now, but it’s March 28. They understand that we want to be playing in the middle of May.”

The Knights are concerned with securing the region title, which eluded them last year after losing to Chestatee (10-3, 6-2) in a game decided by penalty kicks. They have three region games remaining on their schedule.

Johnson has been especially strong of late, which likely propelled it to the No. 1 ranking. The Knights have outscored their last three opponents 10-2, despite all three teams holding winning records and two of them being ranked.

“The guys know that we’re doing well, but they still know we haven’t played a full 80-minute game at the best of our ability,” Shirley said. “They understand there’s always something we can or work on.

“We take the positives away, and we try to fix the negatives after a match to prep for the next one.”

There wasn’t much to complain about Friday, especially in the second half when Johnson scored three goals.

Perez’s big night included a header in the fifth minute of a corner kick from Abarca, providing the Knights with a 1-0 lead and some early momentum.

He scored his second goal in the 58th minute to give Johnson a 3-0 lead, connecting on a Deltoro free kick that was awarded to the Knights after Chestatee was given a yellow card.

Abarca’s tally 10 minutes into the second half happened in an unsuspecting manner. His bouncing shot from outside the box was stopped by Chestatee goalkeeper Miguel Calderon, but game officials determined the ball had already crossed the line when Calderon made the save.

Johnson notched an insurance goal with 11:47 remaining when Bryant Anaya drew Calderon away from the goal and into the right corner, then crossed the ball into the box to Deltoro, who fired it into the open net.

The productive second half stemmed from the Knights’ stout defense, which limited the War Eagles’ scoring chances all night and slowed down their counter offense.

“That was the one thing I was worried about coming in — their ability to counter and catch you off guard very quickly,” Shirley said. “The first half our midfield was a little shaky and our defense had to play really hard to stop that. But we adjusted a little bit and got the midfield solidified, and it kind of took some pressure off the defense from expecting that all the time.”

Johnson takes a break from region play to host Rabun County on Tuesday. Chestatee visits Gilmer the same night.

JOHNSON GIRLS 5, CHESTATEE 0: Hannah Hester scored a pair of goals to lead the Lady Knights to their six straight win Friday.

Evelin Aviata and Kelsey Dumanowsky each scored a goal and recorded an assist for Johnson (6-5, 4-1 Region 8-AAAA), which hasn’t lost since March 4 despite playing through a four-game road trip.

The Lady Knights enjoyed a one-player advantage in the second half after Chestatee (8-5, 5-3) received a red card in the sixth minute for a hand ball inside the goal line. Chandler Steele scored on the penalty kick awarded after the call.

Johnson took advantage of the situation, with Hester and Dumanowsky adding goals in the 23rd and 25th minutes.

Hester added another goal 11 minutes into the second half, and Aviata capped off the Lady Knights’ scoring with a tally in the 57th minute.

Logan Dumanowsky and Hannah Mullinax recorded assists for Johnson, while Hannah Hodge earned the shutout in goal.

The Lady Knights remain in contention for the Region 8-AAAA title with four region games remaining, now carrying key wins over and Chestatee and Walnut Grove. They host Rabun County in a non-region game Tuesday.

Chestatee hosts Gilmer on Tuesday.

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