The Crimson Bears boys’ soccer team might still be nursing some injuries but for a team yet to play at full strength, Juneau-Douglas looks pretty good.
The Bears came out and blasted the Falcons 10-0 on Tuesday night at Thunder Mountain High School, though it took a while for the defending state champs to get going. Other than a quick score from midfielder Sage Thibodeau, the Falcons’ defense held strong for roughly 20 minutes of the first half. But eventually the Bears’ pressure was too much.
Rhett Bennett scored two goals while Johnny Joyce and Nathan Fosket put in one apiece in a span of about 10 minutes to put this one out of reach by halftime. Bennett continued his strong play after returning from an injured hamstring, recording his first hat trick of the season.
JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said regardless of the result, he was happy to see his team playing the way he’d like at this point of the season.
“Forget the score, I thought we were playing the right way. That’s what I was most concerned about,” he said. “I thought we moved the ball, I thought we were unselfish and I thought our effort was really good.
“And we got the goal right off the bat, but (the Falcons) did a good job of not collapsing. They played hard.”
And while this was another tough loss for the Falcons, Thunder Mountain coach Ry Walters said the improvement is there.
Now it’s all about putting together a full 80 minutes.
“The result tonight was an easy pill to swallow for me. I thought we gave a heck of a performance,” he said. “I think we pushed ourselves to our limits and saw where we were at and saw where they were. We pushed their varsity to the very end whereas last year, we’d usually be seeing their junior varsity against our varsity late in the contest.
“So we pushed them in that regard.”
And it was a noticeably better effort than past games, including last weekend’s 8-0 loss to South Anchorage where the Falcons were missing several players. Lehnhart commented on the Falcons’ strong play, but he knew his team would eventually get the job done.
“It took us a while to figure it out, but then we hit a nice place later in the first half where we put a bunch in in a row,” he said. “We were putting good pressure on them and eventually, you knew they’d break through.”
Joyce was recognized for his play after the game when Lehnhart anointed him player of the contest.
“Johnny Joyce exemplified what we wanted,” Lehnhart said. “He brought a lot of effort, competed for and won a lot of balls in the middle and really moved the ball around.”
While this result might have been expected, Walters said the progression is there, it’s just about putting all the pieces together over the course of an entire game.
“Honestly, I think we played 60 minutes of 0-0 soccer today. We had about a ten-minute lapse in each half where they poured in some goals, but we played them strong for 60 minutes,” he said. “Now we’ve got to get to work to that full 80 (minutes).”
Other goal scorers for the Bears included Darien Stanger, Hunter Kirkpatrick, Nick Stewart and Max Smith. Smith capped the scoring with a rip from around 30 yards out into the upper right corner.
“Playing a team like (Juneau-Douglas) pushed you to a point where you either get to their level or sink,” Walters said. “The sink or swim idea is one we’re working on, and we’re trying to swim. We’re almost there.”
The two teams square off again at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.