OAKWOOD -- The Johnson boys soccer team has not faced many do-or-die situations this season.
On Tuesday the Knights showed they are more than capable of handling that kind of pressure, however, scoring in the second overtime period to defeat Carrollton in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs in Oakwood.
The win moved Johnson into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006, where they will play host to Cairo on Friday at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, kick-off time to be determined.
It was just one part of a huge night for area soccer teams, as four programs -- including Gainesville, North Hall and West Hall -- marched into the state quarterfinals. (NOTE: For a look at all of the area's scores and Wednesday's girls second round schedule, simply scroll down.)
Bryant Anaya came up with the crucial strike, heading home a corner kick with just 2:07 separating Johnson (19-1) from the uncertainties of a penalty kick shootout.
"We've got four sophomores on this team, and they're growing up quick," Johnson coach Brian Shirley said. "They've been in a lot of big games this season, so I'm not surprised they're making plays."
One of those sophomores provided the defining moment on Tuesday, as Anaya steamed forward to meet Luis Deltoro's corner kick, scything through a mass of bodies in the Trojans penalty area to head home and spark celebrations on the pitch and in the stands.
"I just saw it coming, and as soon as I hit it I knew it was going in," said Anaya, who found himself in position to score the winner thanks to a physically-draining game that saw the Knights subbing starters in and out over the final few minutes.
"He filled the role of a starter who was out at that time," Shirley said. "He's a great player in training, and he's scored goals for us, so it was no surprise that he took the chance when it came his way."
Moments later the Knights found another hero when goalkeeper Ivan Salcido reacted to ensure there would be no penalty shootout, snatching Gustavo Rivera's goal-bound header out of the air with just 23 seconds remaining.
"We're going for that ring," Anaya said. "It was a rough game, and it wasn't easy, but that's how it's played sometimes."
Scrappy from the start, both teams showed their eagerness to march through to the third round, though Johnson looked the more likely of the two -- especially when Fabian Abarca scored to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
It was more scrappy than artistic, but it was a strike befitting the contest, as Abarca reacted first to a header from Alberto Deltoro -- the defender playing the ball back across goal from a lofted free kick -- for the Knights striker, who forced his own header over the goal line.
Abarca's goal yielded a 1-0 lead with 27:55 remaining and looked set to spark Johnson for more offense. With Carrollton (11-8) pushing forward in search of the equalizer, the Knights' attackers took advantage of the space left behind the Trojans' midfield and pieced together several menacing breakaways -- including a near miss for Perez with 18 minutes remaining.
Minutes later, Carrollton made the Knights pay for not taking advantage, as Jordan Byrd leveled the score at 1-1. The Trojans striker slammed Henry Hernandez's low cross into the Knights net with 13:40 remaining to set the stage for a nail-biting finish.
"We gave them two clear-cut opportunities in the second half and made one mistake and they punished us for it," Shirley said. "At that point we were just telling them to keep their heads up and remember that we had pulled off comebacks early in the season. We couldn't let down."
Both Perez and Jamie Rosales came close to giving Johnson the win in regulation -- Perez drilling a 30-yard free kick that Carrollton goalkeeper Ethan Neild tipped over his own crossbar with 10 minutes remaining. Rosales also rolled a 16-yard shot just wide of the goal with 5 minutes left, sealing overtime.
"We were hoping to avoid penalty kicks, and we had a couple of good opportunities in the second half and just couldn't find the net," Shirley said. "But we kept fighting. We played much better in the second half. We were disappointed with our first half performance. Maybe it was a little bit of nerves but we settled down and played well."
Johnson was limited to long-rage efforts through the first 10 minutes, as Deltoro and Abarca each tried their luck on 30-yard blasts that missed the mark.
Yet after a battling start, the Knights began to wrest control of the contest and Luis Hernandez came close to snatching the lead for the Knights when, with 21 minutes left in the half, he blasted Barut Perez's deflected effort over the bar from eight yards.
Carrollton wasn't just limited to defending, however, and Christian Ramos tested Salcido with a 40-yard effort that the keeper tipped over his own crossbar with 18 minutes left in the half.
The two teams slugged it out until the interval, Hernandez again coming close to breaking the deadlock when he reacted first to a lobbed ball, rolling his defender and surging into the penalty area -- only to drill his shot wide of the post with nine minutes left in the half.
Johnson picked up where it left off in the second half, and it wasn't long before the Knights had a lead -- and though it didn't hold, Johnson showed plenty of guts to take the advantage back and march on to the quarterfinals.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Shirley said. "And now we've got to get ready for another tough opponent."
TUESDAY'S BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFF RESULTS
Gainesville 4, Lithia Springs 0
Johnson 2, Carrollton 1 OT
Southeast Whitfield 5, Lumpkin County 0
West Hall 3, Woodward Academy 1
North Hall 4, North Oconee 3
St. Pius 1, Dawson County 1 (Pius wins 13-12 in penalty shootout)
WEDNESDAY'S GIRLS SECOND ROUND SCHEDULE
Blessed Trinity at Buford, 6:30 p.m.
Dawson County at St. Pius, 6 p.m.
White County at Oconee County, 6:30 p.m.
FRIDAY'S BOYS SOCCER QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE
Gainesville at McIntosh
Cairo at Johnson
Peach County at West Hall
North Hall at Islands