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Wednesday May 25th, 2016 8:36PM

Soccer: Johnson boys make a statement in region opener

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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DAHLONEGA -- Region 8-AAAA -- and the rest of Class AAAA for that matter -- should take note: the Johnson boys soccer team is finding its rhythm.

The Knights stormed to a 6-0 win over Lumpkin County on Tuesday in Dahlonega, handing the Indians only their second loss of the campaign.

And Johnson hardly broke stride in doing it.

Fabian Abarca scored two of his three goals in the first half, while Fidel Rodriguez and Luis Deltoro locked down the midfield and sprung numerous Knights attacks, as third-ranked Johnson (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA) got its 8-AAAA campaign off to a storming start.

"That was the most complete game we've played so far," Knights coach Brian Shirley said. "It was not as crisp as we would like by any means, and we still have to get better, but we had a lot of guys step up tonight."

Johnson did so in the absence of senior captain Israel Avila, who missed the game through illness. Thanks in large part to the bustling efforts of Deltoro and Rodriguez, as well as a swarming defense and opportunistic attack, it was hard to tell there were any holes in the Knights squad.

"We knew we had to close down the middle and prevent Lumpkin from getting any counter-attacks because they're a dangerous team," Shirley said. "The guys tonight applied what we did in training, and that's all you can ask."

Indeed, Johnson allowed just one first-half shot on goal from Lumpkin County -- which had extended periods of possession in the first half but could never forge a route through the Knights' backline.

"Luis and Fidel did an excellent job of closing off space and dropping back quickly when they did get the ball," Shirley said. "They were our two workhorses tonight."

The Knights also showed they possess plenty of thoroughbreds in attack, as Jonathan Gillham, Abarca, Alberto Deltoro and Luis Hernazdez added their names to the scoresheet.

Gillham got things started for Johnson just two minutes into the contest, pouncing on a cross from Abarca that eluded two Indians defenders before the Johnson senior volleyed home from 10 yards.

The Indians (2-2-2, 0-1) looked to fight back through Daniel Ramirez, Santiago Bartolome, Jesus Ramirez and Cal Thrailkill, but the Lumpkin County attackers rarely caught sight of the Knights goal despite controlling the ball for much of the first 15 minutes.

Johnson proved much more incisive with its attacks, however, and Abarca assured the visitors of a comfortable lead with three straight strikes.

The sophomore pounced with 23:36 left in the first half, prodding home a spilled save attempt for a 2-0 advantage before working a tantalizing give-and-go with Hernandez to set up his second with 3:53 left in the half.

By the time Abarca added his third with 37:48 left in the second half Johnson owned a 4-0 lead -- though the Knights were not content to rest on their laurels, and Alberto Deltoro made it 5-0 off a Johnson corner kick with 24:50 left to play.

Hernandez capped the impressive display with 3:59 remaining, sprinting on to a long outlet pass and ripping a 16-yard shot into the Indians goal.

Even after the performance, Shirley noted that the Knights were not patting themselves on the back -- nor even reflecting on the victory.

"Right now we're just taking it one game at a time; that game is over, now it's time to focus on the next one," Shirley said.

Johnson will travel to face Stephens County on Friday.

Lumpkin County, meanwhile, will look to bounce back when it travels to face Eastside on Friday.


LUMPKIN COUNTY GIRLS 2,
JOHNSON 1


The Lady Indians (3-1-2, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA) scored twice in first the 10 minutes of the second half to take a lead they would not relinquish on Tuesday in Dahlonega.

The Lady Knights' Kesley Dumanowsky pegged Lumpkin County back with just over 12 minutes remaining, but Johnson (0-5-1, 0-1) could not complete the comeback despite racking up 15 shots.
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