Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - A senior night standoff ensued Saturday at Adair Kennedy Pitch as the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain boys soccer teams played to a 1-1 tie. The Crimson Bears honored senior players Forrest Davis, Tim Degener, Zac Stagg and Leo Sims before the match.
Davis did not play due to season-long injury and Degener would sit out the game as well.
The team presented coach Gary Lehnhart, who also has been hobbled this year, with a pair of pink crutches, replacing the single one he had leaned on all season.
Stagg and Sims were in the starting line up that featured a resilient roster of underclassmen who had been out muscled in a 3-1 loss to the Falcons on Wednesday at Thunder Mountain’s senior celebration.
Saturday proved to be a different story for Juneau-Douglas.
“We faced a pretty physical game last game and I really liked the way the kids responded tonight,” Lehnhart said. “I think they played physical back. And for our young kids, our sophomores, it surprised me for them to do it that quickly. For them to kind of figure it out that quickly. That was part of it. Then I think the other part of it is that we are so early in the season still when you think about it in terms of games played, three games, I think it was the first game that they really kind of created a little bit of a pulse as a team. That is always important. Where you are all meshing. I was really pleased with their effort.”
Juneau-Douglas scored just 12 minutes into action as sophomore Gabe Cheng connected on a shot from 25 yards out and off to the left of the goal. The ball stretched in the air past players and the Crimson Bears keeper to snarl into the right corner of the net.
“It was great,” Cheng said. “It was a good way to start off on a good note going into the second half on that. We practice that and I figured I could make that shot so I took it. We figured out how to work as a team so it is looking a lot better.”
After Juneau-Douglas responded to some physical marks by Thunder Mountain, the Crimson Bears braced for another Falcons athletic wave and it came in droves.
Three successive attacks produced shots by Falcons senior Logan Miller and junior Talon Briggs. Briggs would miss a free kick and be stymied in the box as Crimson Bears sophomore Will Robinson cleared the blocked ball out and junior Callan Smith almost broke it to a one-on-one.
Juneau-Douglas missed an indirect free kick high with 15 minutes remaining in the first half and drilled a shot off the crossbar with 7 minutes left before the break. Thunder Mountain began multiple attempts from the 14 minute mark with junior Wallace Adams touching to Miller who missed a header and Briggs missing a free kick wide.
At every turn, the Crimson Bears’ Robinson hounded the Falcons’ Miller, Briggs and Adams.
Lehnhart noted the defensive pressure of his side, including Robinson who suffered two bruised ribs in the match but continued to play.
“I was super impressed with his effort,” Lehnhart said. “I also thought Gabe Chang was off the charts good and Kean Buss, the other sophomore, and Tayten Bennetsen, all our sophomores they just battled. It was a good game.”
Thunder Mountain began the second half three straight scoring attempts in the first five minutes including a shot at the goal mouth that the keeper blocked and another attempt that Robinson stole away for the Crimson Bears.
With 17 minutes remaining in the second half, the Falcons’ Miller was fouled near the box and awarded a penalty kick which he calmly placed to the keeper’s left side to tie the score.
Both sides missed closing opportunities down the stretch with the loss of the victory felt by both and dampened by the heavy rain conditions.
“It was nasty conditions,” Thunder Mountain coach Tim Lewis said. “It was a great game. JD came out to play. It was their senior night. They showed up and had a great game. Hats off to them. It is just a good thing to have competition going into the state tournament. We didn’t give up. I think that was our biggest take-a-way from the match.”
Thunder Mountain and Juneau-Douglas next play in the division II state tournament at Eagle River, Service and West Anchorage High Schools, Thursday through Saturday. The Falcons are the Southeast No. 1 seed and the Crimson Bears the No. 2. On the girls side, the Crimson Bears are seeded No. 1 and the Falcons No. 2.