Johnson picked the wrong time to have a bad game, and Woodward Academy made the Knights pay, beating them 8-1 Wednesday night in front of the home crowd at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in second round action of the Class AAA state playoffs.
The fourth-ranked Knights (15-4), Area 8’s top seed was taken out if their game early by the second-ranked War Eagles (14-3-1), the No. 2 seed from Area 5.
Woodward advances to the quarterfinals, where it will play the Grovetown-Eastside winner on Saturday.
Using relentless aggression, the War Eagles started strong, scoring the match’s first three goals in 30 minutes.
They finished even stronger, scoring three more goals in the final seven minutes to complete a thorough dismantling of the Knights.
It was Johnson’s worst loss of the season — the Knights hadn’t lost by more than two goals heading into Wednesday.
“Today the boys just played hard and we knew what we had to do coming in here and playing at home against a (good) team,” said freshman Cameron Mosely, who score Woodward’s first two goals in the 10th and 15th minutes. “We banded together before for the game, set our goals and accomplished them with authority.”
Jonathan Mendoza’s goal with 10 minutes left in the half provided hope for the Knights heading into the locker room trailing 3-1.
However, any momentum they were hoping to build quickly dissolved when, four minutes into the second half, Johnson was yellow carded inside the goal box. Jose Garcia converted the penalty kick and put the War Eagles back in the driver’s seat.
The point of no return for Johnson probably occurred during Woodward’s fifth goal with 19 minutes remaining. On the play, Knight starting keeper Joshua Martin, along with defender Barut Perez, left the match with injuries.
As the clock dwindled, and the War Eagles removed starters one at a time, they continued to play with the same force that gave them the lead, and the match got out of hand.
“When you come away from your home field and play at these places, that’s what you need,” War Eagles coach Matt Holmes said. “You need a bit of desire and grit, and then hopefully the football will come out of that. We played excellent tonight and I was really pleased with our team shape.
“(Johnson) didn’t cause us too many problems, but I thought, at times, if maybe they had put one away it would have been a different story.”
Inside the match’s first two minutes, Johnson nearly scored off a loose ball rebound that was kicked at the goal, but the Woodward keeper stopped it just before it crossed the line.
The goal would have given the Knights a much-needed early lead.
“If we would have put that rebound in the goal, it could have easily swung the momentum in our favor,” Knights coach Brian Shirley said. “We just made too many mental mistakes and gave up too many early goals. They just kind of sucked the life out of us.
“You can’t have a bad night at this point in the season.”
Shirley said the Knights won’t let Wednesday’s letdown outweigh the success they enjoyed this season. They accomplished their first three goals of beating Gainesville, winning 8-AAA and advancing past the first round of the playoffs — they didn’t get out of the opening round the last two seasons.
“We graduated 12 kids last year and a lot of people thought that we weren’t going to be in the position we were in this year,” Shirley said. “We came out, we fought and played hard and met our goals. Unfortunately we couldn’t exceed those goals tonight.”
Knights senior striker and captain Jaun Morfin, who returned to action Wednesday after missing the previous nine games with a broken foot, said he was pleased with this year’s squad.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Morfin said. “Me coming out with an injury and them pulling together to get us this far — I’m not sad about anything. We’ve had a good year and I’ve had a good four years here. We came together and showed we deserved to be out there playing.”