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Johnson boys endure adversity, battle past St. Pius X to claim Class 5A soccer state title
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Johnson soccer players celebrate with fans after winning the Class 5A state championship against St. Pius X on May 5, 2022 at McEachern High in Powder Springs. - photo by Bill Murphy

Johnson’s boys soccer program left no doubt. 

Even in the midst of adversity, the Knights surged ahead in the second half to claim to Class 5A state championship by beating St. Pius X, 4-2, on Thursday at McEachern High in Powder Springs. 

It marks Johnson’s second state championship in boys soccer and avenges a loss in the state title match on the same field in 2021. 

“Since May 13 of last year on that bus ride home, we said we would come back and win it this season and now we’ve done it,” said Knights senior Angel Sagrero, who will be playing at Georgia Southern University, starting in the fall. 

And once the state championship was in hand, the Knights wasted no time celebrating with the thousands of their fans who made the trip through traffic to Cobb County for the match. 

Once the final horn sounded, the players sprinted straight to the Knights’ student section and started jumping up and down. 

“We’ve worked so hard for this all season and now we’re state champions,” Knights junior Jorge Sandoval said. 

As Sagrero said after the match, they did it for Jalil. 

Tied 1-1 early in the second half, Knights (21-1-1) midfielder Jalil Chavez sustained a serious head injury when he collided in the air with a player from St. Pius X. 

Chavez remained on the ground for more than 30 minutes and left by ambulance with Cobb County emergency personnel. 

Having a player go down with a head injury left a somber mood over the stadium. 

Then, when the game resumed, St. Pius X (12-4-4) wasted no time finding the back of the net for the go-ahead score off a penalty kick. 

Trailing 2-1 in the 67th minute, that’s when the Knights really got to work. 

Daniel Trujillo scored the equalizer for Johnson on a putback, less than a minute after going down for the first time in the championship game. 

Then the Knights started to turn it on. 

Shortly after Trujillo’s goal, Kevin Castillo took the ball on a breakaway and buried the ball into the back of the net, sending the Johnson faithful into a frenzy. 

After having to hold firm on defense in front of the net, the Knights found momentum again and Sandoval put the final score in the back of the net with less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock. 

Even before the game was complete, the Johnson faithful had already started cheering and singing in the bleachers. 

Castillo was especially emotional after the match, mentioning that his mother has been battling cancer. 

When he got the chance to score, he did it with her in mind. 

“I scored for her and everyone who’s been there to support us,” Castillo said. “This state championship is not just for us, it’s for everyone who supported us.”

Johnson coach Frank Zamora said after the match that one of the first orders of business was to check in on Chavez and deliver him his state championship shirt. 

“We’re a family and support each other on this team,” Zamora said. “When he went down, we knew we had to win it for him.”


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