The first time Israel Soria charged out of his net, the Dalton High School goalkeeper managed to swipe the ball from the foot of a sprinting Johnson player and preserve a scoreless tie early in the second half of a state championship-caliber showdown at Harmon Field Friday night.

When Soria was put into the same position just three minutes later, fortune favored visiting Johnson, the defending state champions and top-ranked team in Class 4A.

Soria dove again at a Johnson player that had gotten behind the Catamount defense, but this time the ball squirted free, landing right in front of an open Raymond Aguilar.

Aguilar sent home the difference-making goal as Johnson (10-0) knocked off Dalton (10-2), the second-ranked team in Class 5A, 1-0 Friday night.

It’s the second straight year Dalton has dropped a game to Gainesville’s Johnson. The loss marks the first time since 2018 that Dalton has lost multiple games in the regular season. The Catamounts dropped another state final-type match earlier this year against 5A No. 1 McIntosh.

Johnson’s goal came with 26:46 left in a hard-fought game that saw both offenses limited to just a few slim openings.

Dalton was the side that earned more of those chances in the first half, but none materialized in goals as the teams went into the locker room without a score.

After Johnson scored the lone goal, the Catamounts appeared to strike back quickly.

Just four minutes later, Diego Paez had sent the ball into the net and the Catamounts were already celebrating when an offside call was whistled, negating the equalizer. Zeke Ortiz put in a would-be goal in the first half that was also waved off by an offside call.

The Catamounts mounted a frantic push as the minutes waned, but a cross was barely swiped away by the Johnson keeper and another header went just high.

Dalton is next in action Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a home game against Hiram.

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