Sunday June 23rd, 2024 4:46PM
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STATE FINALS: Johnson streaks come to an end in loss to Westminster

By Jeff Hart | Video by Seth Chapman

DULUTH, Ga. — All good streaks eventually come to an end. Johnson found that out in heartbreaking fashion on Wednesday in the Class 4A state championship match at Duluth High School.

The Knights fell 2-0 to Westminster in a rematch of the 2023 title match, snapping several impressive streaks in the process. They had their 14 straight postseason game win streak going back to 2021 snapped; saw their 15 match win streak in 2024 come to end; and had their state title run end at two as they were looking to defend their Class 4A state title.

“It’s soccer. You win some, you lose some,” Johnson coach Frank Zamora said in a rainy interview afterwards. “This is still a young group. They now see what it’s like to lose at this stage and I'm sure they’ll learn from this and come back stronger and motivated next year.”

The Wildcats  (17-4-2) dominated much of the first half against the defending champions. They produced a solid scoring chance just two minutes in and Benjamin Villatoro was forced to make a diving save on another shot in the 9th minute.

The Knights' usually consistent ball-control offense sputtered for the first 19 minutes, with six midfield turnovers. As a result, the Wildcats were able to generate 7 shots, many within 20 yards. 

Johnson’s 6th turnover would contribute mightily. The Wildcats would take advantage as Will Stewart found himself alone on the left side for a 10-yard blast. Villatoro was able to make a diving save but that left Aditya Kaul wide open for an easy goal on the rebound for a 1-0 lead with 21:16 left in the first half.

The Knights (18-2-1) would get a huge break two minutes later, however, as Westminsters’s Tristen Lewis received a red card when he upended Vazquez, who was on a breakaway just outside of the box.

Johnson turned that into their first two shots of the game moments later, but Andres Galacia’s blast from 20-yards sailed wide left.

From there, the Johnson offense awakened. They created three corners and outshot the Wildcats 4-1 over the final 20 minutes. But it would still go to the half 1-0 Westminster despite two huge opportunities for the Knights in the final two minutes..

A 15-yard blast by Vazquez after a beautiful long ball into the box sailed just over the crossbar in the 38th minute. Another Galacia shot from 22-yards out sailed just wide of the left crossbar in the final 30 seconds.

Westminster outshot the Knights 9-4 in the opening 40 minutes but generated just one shot after the red card to Lewis.

Johnson took the man-advantage into the second half but it was quickly erased on a questionable call against Jalil Chavez, who got a red card of his own in the 42nd minute.

With the match back to even strength, the Knights were able to generate a 6-2 shot advantage midway into the second half. But they could not cash in for the equalizer.

The Wildcats added a huge insurance goal with 14 minutes left to essentially seal it on a header from Alex Na off a corner in the 66th minute.

“Westminster came out with a lot of intensity and we did not match it,” Zamora said. “We definitely picked it up when we had the man advantage but we missed some really good opportunities that would have changed the momentum. Then we got the red card and changed the momentum back a little bit.

“We had chances. We just couldn’t finish and find the net. But I think there were a lot of people that did not think we could get back to this point and the younger guys showed that they can play. I’m very proud of the season they had.”

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