Friday April 19th, 2024 9:08PM

Soccer: Johnson boys clinch 8-4A; Lady Bears take over 1st in 8-4A

By Jeff Hart | Video by Seth Chapman

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Johnson junior Daniel Trujillo said as much after giving the Knights a thrilling 1-0 win over Cherokee Bluff Thursday night.

Trujillo’s goal came with just 43 seconds left off a looping midfield feed from Andres Galacia that found its way through traffic and past Bears’ keeper Abner Rebollar.

“To get a game-winner like that just feels amazing,” Trujillo said. “We were basically lucky to win this one.”

That’s because Bluff looked to have taken a 1-0 lead with 20 minutes left on a Danny Alquicira shot. But it hit the crossbar, bounced out, and then the Bears were called offsides as a rebound shot found the net.

Johnson coach Frank Zamora said the near-miss turned into a wake-up call for his top-ranked Knights.

“The last 10 minutes after that we went on the attack,” Zamora said. “We had some chances that I felt we should’ve scored and didn’t but thankfully we got that with 43 seconds left.”

The win gave Johnson (9-1-1, 8-0 Region 8-4A) its second straight Region 8-4A title and was the program’s 10th straight region title overall. It also pushed their region wins streak to 61 straight going back to 2015.

The loss for Cherokee Bluff (8-5-1, 5-3 Region 8-4A) snapped a five-game winning streak and dropped the Bears back into a logjam of seven teams all within one game for the other three playoff spots.

“There are no days off in this region. Thankfully we clinched it now and we can get ready for the playoffs,” Zamora said. 

It was expected to be a physical, defensive battle and it lived up to the billing in the first half for sure. More than a half dozen fouls were called, mostly in the midfield area as both defenses were tough to crack with no shots by either team in the opening 10 minutes.

However, both offenses were able to generate some counterattacks. Johnson got the first shot on a direct kick in the 10th minute and Bluff’s first real threat came three minutes later.

Jack Wayne gathered a ball and made a speedy 30-yard run down the left side but his left-footed attempt slid through the goal just wide right of Johnson keeper Benjamin Villatoro and the net.

The Knights next best chance came in the 28th minute when Josue Mendoza’s 50-yard blast on a direct kick was corralled by Rebollar.

The Bears had a solid chance in the 32nd minute but Giovanni Alquicira fanned on a one-time attempt and a follow shot by Tristan Martinez was blocked. They had three more chances two minutes later on a pair of corners but again, the Johnson defense thwarted the attempts.

With just four minutes left in the half Wayne nearly gave Bluff the lead on a 10-yard blast but Villatoro’s diving save kept it a scoreless going into the half.

Shots in the second half were just as hard to come by as the first. The Bears had the best in the 55th minute when Wayne crossed to Madrigal who found Cade Acord inside the box. But Acord’s chip shot just missed.

Johnson missed another one-timer inside the box in the 57th minute and the Bears’ Paul Lesutis stopped another Knights blast inside the box two minutes later.

Next up for Johnson is another team fighting for a playoff spot in Walnut Grove (8-5, 4-3 Region 8-4A) on the road on Tuesday.

Bluff faces a must-win scenario on Tuesday traveling to East Hall (9-3, 4-3 Region 8-4A).


CHEROKEE BLUFF GIRLS 5,
JOHNSON 1

The Lady Bears scored five unanswered goals in taking an important Region 8-4A win in a battle of top 10 teams.

The victory moved eight-ranked Cherokee Bluff (11-3, 8-0 Region 8-4A) into first place in the region standings, one-half game ahead fourth-ranked North Oconee (9-1-1, 7-0 Region 8-4A). Those two are scheduled to meet next Thursday at Cherokee Bluff with the region title on the line.

Bluff coach Heath Padgett said they’ll be ready, but first they will travel to East Hall on Tuesday.

“We’re not going to overlook anyone and we’re more focused on East Hall right now,” Padgett said. However, when asked about the Lady Titans, “we feel like it’s a pretty good matchup for both teams. 

“Both teams are close in goals scored and goals allowed on the season. That should be a good match and we’ll be ready.”

Against Johnson, the match was tied at 1 after the teams exchanged goals midway through the first half. Anna Gessner got Bluff on the board first with a penalty kick but Johnson answered with 14 minutes left on a goal by Liz Rivera.

It was all Bluff from there. The Lady Bears scored twice over a 4:03 span, with Eva Martin and Bristol Kersh finding the net as they took a 3-1 lead into halftime. It stayed that way until Bluff exploded for three more goals in a 16 minute stretch of the second half.

Kersh added her second goal in the 52nd minute. Genesis scored seven minutes later to make it 5-1, and Martin got credited with her second goal off a deflection from a defender with just 12 minutes left.

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