After a difficult road trip to start the season, the Juneau-Douglas boys’ soccer team is rolling through early conference play.
The Crimson Bears scored six goals in the first half before calling off the dogs in a 7-0 win Thursday over Thunder Mountain at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Seniors Rhett Bennett and Max Smith scored two goals each, and Juneau-Douglas kept a clean sheet for the fifth straight game to push its record to 3-3-2 this season.
The Falcons’ defense played strong early in the match, keeping the Bears from taking what they wanted. But Bennett took an Andy Lawson feed up the middle and put the ball past Thunder Mountain keeper Matt Seymour to begin a three-goal surge in a span of three minutes.
“Sometimes, the number of goals scored can be misleading. And that means when you’re not scoring, sometimes that’s misleading,” Bears coach Gary Lehnhart said. “So I thought early in the game, even though we weren’t scoring as quickly as they would have liked, I thought they were playing well.
“They were moving the ball, making good decisions. Eventually, it paid off.”
Bennett’s first goal came nine minutes in the contest and was quickly followed by Smith’s pair of scores. At the 12-minute mark, Nathan Fosket centered the ball on a fantastic cross and Andy Lawson played it perfectly to set up Johnny Joyce in the middle of the field for a goal. The shot was deflected off the post, but Smith was there for the rebound on the right side of the box and snuck the ball past the keeper to make it 2-0. Smith would score again less than a minute later after a Colin Zheng assist gave him a point-blank shot in front of net.
Lehnhart said you don’t always know how and when goals will come over the course of the game.
“Goals go in for lots of reasons,” he said. “Sometimes it’s defensive error, sometimes it’s the bounce of the ball. And so you have to be a little careful judging the performance based on when the ball’s going in.
“It’s hard to score.”
The Bears fourth goal was a strike off the right foot of Fosket. The senior midfielder took a pass from Darien Stanger, lined up the shot and ripped it from more than 20 yards out, burying it in the bottom right corner of the net. Johnny Joyce then set up his teammates Sage Thibodeau and Bennett for two goals in the final two minutes of the first half to put the game away at the break.
With two games coming up early next week against Ketchikan, Lehnhart decided to rest some of his regulars and give his young guys some time.
“As for the second half, we’ve got a deep program. Some of these guys are good players and aren’t getting a lot of minutes,” he said. “So I wanted to get them out there playing together because their time’s going to come.
“It might not be this year, but in the near future. We have a lot of games during this stretch here, so it’s good to give these other guys a break,” Lehnhart continued. “We’re still dinged up, and we don’t want to push that.”
Senior midfielder Matteus Tempel capped off the scoring on a penalty kick after Thunder Mountain’s Sam Jahn was called for contact in the box.
But again, Falcons coach Ry Walters said he saw progress. While he acknowledged there’s still a long way to go, Walters is proud of the way his young team handled the task of playing a side like the Crimson Bears.
“We’re working toward our single goal, and that’s being the best team this group can be,” he said. “We have a ways to go, but last game we played at least 90 percent of the game in our defensive half. This game, we moved it into their half and got some opportunities.
“Now we need to take advantage of those opportunities.”
And the Falcons had several chances in the second half to get on the board against the Bears. On one run in particular, Thunder Mountain freshman Ben Jahn received a ball down the right side and sprinted toward the goal. As he cut in behind the Bears’ defense, the Falcons’ physical forward took a shot from just outside the box only to have it bend and miss wide left.
The goals might not be there against Juneau-Douglas yet, but they seem closer by the contest. Walters said preventing goals in bunches and focusing on defense is still the most important thing.
“Any time you have a young team, that’s typically how it goes. You see goals in bunches and lapses for periods of minutes,” he said. “When we have the ability to set up our defense, I don’t have them scoring a goal.
“In my mind, I’m very happy with this.”
JDHS hosts Ketchikan on Monday and Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. TMHS is at Ketchikan April 29-30.