OAKWOOD — Veterans had allowed just three goals over its last 12 matches, including just one in its first two Class 5A playoff games.
It took second-ranked Johnson less than a half to match that total as the Knights rolled to an easy 6-1 victory at The Dungeon on Tuesday in the GHSA state quarterfinals.
Johnson (19-1-1) moves into its fourth straight semifinals and will take on Woodward Academy on Friday for a spot in the championship match next week. The top-ranked Wildcats handed the Knights their only loss of the season in College Park last month.
“The boys showed up and played well and realize the goal (of a state title) is reachable,” Johnson coach Frank Zamora said. “We would love another shot at Woodward. It was a great match the first time and could have gone either way. I think it would be another great match. But we’re glad to be back in the semifinals with a shot to still win (the title).”
Johnson needed less than six minutes to get on the board as Angel Sagrero converted a penalty kick after Jorge Sandoval was taken down in the box. Six minutes later Aguilar got his own goal on a breakaway following a great lead pass from Sandoval for a 2-0 lead.
“That PK really set the tone and the offense really came to play tonight,” Zamora said.
Warhawks’ keeper Jeremy Sams made two tremendous saves in a five-minute span to keep it just a two-goal deficit, one coming on a Sandoval breakaway, getting a hand on a low shot.
But Sandoval finally found the net, also scoring following a long breakaway run, beating Sams for a 3-0 lead in the 30th minute. It went to the half that way as Sams made two more point-blank range saves over the final 8 minutes.
The Knights controlled the ball for what seemed 80 percent of the time over the first 70 minutes. The Warhawks only penetrated the Knights defense inside 25 yards three times.
Veterans’ best chance up to that point came on a free kick in the 65th minute that forced Johnson keeper Kristian Hernandez to make a diving save. The Knights offense countered after a Warhawks corner that resulted in Sandoval netting his second goal on a 25-yard blast off a rebound for a 4-0 lead with just over 13 minutes left.
The Knights added another goal three minutes later when a slow shot by Sandoval past a scrambling Sams trickled over the goal line for a 5-0 lead to give him the hat trick.
Veterans finally got on the board when Dre Brown fired a short shot past Hernandez after a rare Johnson defensive breakdown to cut the lead to 5-1 with 9 minutes left. Johnson’s David Arteaga finished it off with a goal in the final minute.
The lopsided win seemed to fit the resume of both teams. Johnson played a grueling schedule with now 13 of their 21 matches against teams with winning records. The Knights improved to 12-1 in those.
The Warhawks, who had won 12 straight coming into the quarterfinal showdown, had played just four matches against teams with a winning record and was a dismal 1-2-1 before Tuesday’s loss.
“I think the tough schedule we played has helped us when we get in the big games like this,” Zamora said. “That’s why we played the Daltons, the Gainesvilles, the Woodwards, so that we could see the kind of competition we knew we would see in the playoffs.”
Hernandez finished with three saves as the Warhawks (17-3-1) stepped up the pressure against some Johnson defensive reserves.
NOTES: Johnson is making its 5th Final Four appearances in the last six years. ... Johnson completed a near-perfect 10-0-1 home schedule in 2022. ... The Knights’ only loss came to No. 1 Woodward (4-3) on the road. ... For all the offensive firepower, the Knights are yielding just 1.1 GA with 9 SO on the season. ... Veterans was making its first quarterfinals appearance since 2011.