Any time a team gets into the state playoffs the motto is simple: survive and advance.
This is exactly what exactly what the Johnson High boys soccer team did Tuesday. After 100 minutes of action in the Class 5A state semifinals, the Knights used penalty kicks and a valiant save for a 7-5 win over Woodward Academy at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium. This victory also propelled the Knight into the state title game against McIntosh.
“This team was really good,” Knights’ senior Eliam Chavez said of Woodward Academy. “We won and that’s the best feeling ever. Now, we’re going to state. It is the best feeling ever.”
Going into the extra session was not exactly what Chavez wanted or had in mind.
The senior knows when the game has to be decided on penalty kicks anything can happen.
Chavez wanted to secure the game in overtime. However, when goalie Steven Flores blocked Woodward’s first attempt, Chavez had that good feeling.
“We all got motivated,” he said. “We were going to win, which we did.”
Flores’ only stop gave Johnson all the confidence it needed.
Both teams had successful attempts beyond each goalie. There were moments Flores showed frustration for guessing wrong on the War Eagles (16-3-1) attempts.
Tense moments between the players and the Johnson faithful was beginning to show. As the first set of PK’s was coming to an end, Angel Sagrero has the Knights hope to get a victory. Once the whistle blew he kicked a ball toward the upper right corner.
The crowd waited in bated breath as it slammed to the back of the net.
They roared. Sagrero sprinted to the student section and embraced an entire front row that was also going nuts.
This was not just a victory for Knights, team but for the entire community.
“I knew I had to score to win (the game),” Sagrero said. “My confidence in my team. I knew if I scored it we would go to the state championship.”
Johnson knew this was going to be a big and physical team. The game played out just like it was expected. There was physical play on both sides of the field. Penalty cards handed out toward players and coaches. Through it all Johnson managed to keep their composure, especially going into the extra session.
The Knights showed resiliency throughout out the match. They never looked like a team looking to fold or wilt.
It did not matter if they trailed, tied or needed a final PK in the first-round of shots, Johnson was not going away easy.
“This group showed a lot of heart and passion for this team, community and one another,” Johnson coach Frank Zamora said. “The adversity we faced early on (during the season) definitely prepared us for moments like this. Once we went into PK’s we told the boys, ‘We have been here before. Just go and execute.’”
“That’s exactly what they did. They never gave up.”