Monday November 30th, 2015 1:20AM

Soccer: Johnson boys cruise on to second round with 3-0 win

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
OAKWOOD -- The Johnson boys soccer team learned all about patience this week.

After waiting 10 days to play a game and watching their first round playoff contest postponed, waiting a half to score a goal was a relative pittance.

The Knights showed no ill-effects from Tuesday's postponement, notching a 3-0 win over Marist on Saturday to march through to the second round of the postseason.

"It wasn't that tough (waiting four extra days), but we wanted to get out there and play," Johnson sophomore Fabian Abarca said.

Abarca, in particular, showed his eagerness from the opening whistle, using his speed and skill to harass the Marist defense and menace the War Eagles goal -- including a near miss 15 minutes into the contest when he dropped a shoulder, burst into the Marist penalty area and slid a 12-yard shot across an open goalmouth.

The sophomore sparked the Knights attack all afternoon -- a Johnson offense that registered 26 shots on goal, versus just two for Marist -- though it took both he and Johnson a half to find their scoring touch.

When that touch came, however, there was no surprise that it came from Abarca -- who struck just 51 seconds after the interval and then again with just over 17 minutes remaining to help Johnson ease into Tuesday's "Sweet 16."

"Fabian is very crafty; he's not the biggest kid out there, but he's shifty and he keeps the ball nice and tight, so when defenders commit, he can just go the other way," Johnson coach Brian Shirley said of the sophomore dynamo.

Abarca had plenty of help on Saturday, as Luis Deltoro and Bryant Anaya also spent the contest searching for holes in a disciplined Marist defense, while Luis Hernandez also struck with just over nine minutes remaining to help seal the victory.

"We played well, and the way we worked the ball and moved it today was pretty good," Shirley said. "The big thing was we had to stay calm. We had to keep working, and we knew they (Marist) were going to make it tough for us, and they had 9-10 guys behind the ball a lot of the time defending. But we knew if we could get one (goal) it would open things up for us."

The War Eagles fought a tight rear-guard action for much of the first half and even produced a scare for the Knights defense inside the first 11 minutes when Keith DeWitt rose and headed a corner kick past Johnson goalkeeper Gerardo Molina. DeWitt could not beat Knights defender Alberto Deltoro, however, who held his spot on the Johnson post and cleared the danger off the goal line.

The moment seemed to serve as a wake-up call for the Knights, who held Marist without another meaningful attack until the game's final minutes.

Going on the attack, Edgar Torres and Abarca both came close to breaking the deadlock -- though Johnson could not find a way past War Eagles defense in the opening 40 minutes.

It took just 51 seconds of the second half to reverse that trend.

Deltoro fired a low free kick into the Marist penalty area that Abarca re-directed into the War Eagles net for a 1-0 advantage.

The strike only invigorated the Knights attack, Deltoro banging a shot off the Marist goalpost after a perfectly-weighted pass from Abarca. Yet the War Eagles hung tough and kept within striking distance until Abarca finally put the game out of reach with 17:02 remaining. This time the sophomore beat the War Eagles defense to a long pass and slotted his shot into the goal for 2-0 advantage.

Hernandez struck with 8:44 remaining to make for a comfortable final few minutes for the Knights -- though Johnson kept working with the knowledge that future contests will only get tougher.

"We didn't feel secure at 1-0; Marist is a good team, and we had to keep working to get more goals," Abarca said. "We played well today, but we still have a lot of room to improve. And we'll have to play better in the next round."

The Knights will play host to Carrollton, which defeated Northwest Whitfield 1-0 on Saturday, at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Oakwood.
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