A year after he scored two goals to give Juneau-Douglas the state soccer championship, Max Smith struck again, providing the lone goal in the Crimson Bears’ 1-0 championship victory Saturday over South.
The title was Juneau-Douglas’ second straight and third in four years, and it came against a team the Crimson Bears have developed a big rivalry with. Nine of the last 11 state titles have gone to either South or Juneau, with the teams facing each other in the championship four times.
Smith’s goal was a hard shot along the ground from about 30 yards out at Dimond Alumni Field. It skidded through South defenders and bounced off Sanders’ hands, rebounding into the air with a high amount of spin. When it hit the ground, the spin propelled the ball over the goal line.
“I can’t even explain it. Your heart’s in your mouth,” said Smith, who scored both of Juneau-Douglas’ goals in last season’s championship victory over Dimond. “It’s exciting and I love this.”
Smith is one of 11 seniors for JDHS, the majority of whom have played together since they were 9. They’re dedicated to the sport, coach Gary Lehnhart said.
“They wake up in the morning thinking about it,” he said. “This is a special group of kids.”
Lehnhart said last year’s championship was a bit of surprise because the Crimson Bears were a bit of unknown squad, but this year’s team began the season with high expectations.
Saturday’s win didn’t come easily. South put on a furious attack over the final 10 minutes, barely missing several attempts to tie the match, including one in which South goalie Trent Sanders sprinted all the way to opposite end of the field to participate in a corner-kick formation. The corner kick came right to Sanders and he fired a shot about a foot too high, over the crossbar.
In South’s final possession, Mitch Bustamante came within inches of scoring the equalizer when he headed a ball toward the center of the goal. The ball hit the crossbar, was tipped by JDHS goalie Taylor Lehnhart and hit the crossbar again before it rolled over the top of the goal and into the netting behind it.
“I had no idea where it was going,” Bustamante said.
Taylor Lehnhart managed to preserve the shutout with some strong saves, including one risky play in which he chased a ball all the way to the right sideline, nearly surrendering it to a South player.
“I couldn’t pick a better goalie than Taylor,” said defender Peter Jorgensen.
As one of Juneau’s seniors, Jorgensen savored Saturday’s victory.
“This may be the last time I ever step out on a soccer field,” he said. “It means a lot.”
• Jeremy Peters can be reached at at email@example.com or 257-4335.