The Dimond boys had the top seed, the top player and the home pitch.
Juneau-Douglas had the history and the most heart.
Sport gods, however, pay no attention to what is written or what is displayed, sometimes they just let the game go on and let the balls strike where they may.
Dimond ran with their Gatorade Alaska Boys Player Of The Year, senior midfielder Michael Sedor, to a state soccer championship 1-0 win on Saturday.
The Crimson Bears did not lag far behind.
“Our kids played great,” JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. “Dimond had the run of play for most of the game. They put more pressure on us than we put on them.”
The player of the year award didn’t phase Crimson Bears junior midfielder Stuart Thurston who shadowed Sedor through the match. Thurston basically shut the senior Lynx star down. Classmate Tommy Thompson also played well against the strong attack of the Lynx.
Dimond’s Travis Merritt scored the only goal of the match, just seconds before the first half came to a close.
Merritt was eight yards out and about to play on a nice Lynx through ball into goal against JDHS keeper Max Lyons when the Crimson Bears’ Edric Carillo caught him from behind and was whistled for a penalty.
“If I was on the other side I would have wanted it called,” Lehnhart said. “I don’t feel bad about it. The ref made the call he had to make. Edric hit the ball but he caught the player a little bit too.”
Merritt put in the penalty kick past one of the top goalies in the state, the shot was well deserved, the penalty that was called was legitimate, the soccer gods did not choose a side but let two quality teams play.
“It was a tough call,” Carillo said. “I felt like he dived a little bit, but I definitely fouled him. It was an honest call. It is unfortunate that it happened. I was a bit nervous going into the match. It is tough playing someone who is rated first and who we had lost to decisively earlier in the season. Their record has shown how good they are. But we definitely played the best we have the entire season and I have no regrets of how we played today.”
After the goal the ball was placed at midfield and the whistle sounded for halftime.
Carillo is one of many Crimson Bears who have paid their dues as upper classmen have had the pitch. He is also one of the many Crimson Bears who have answered the call when needed. And many were needed throughout the season.
“I felt that waiting my turn was very important to being a part of the team,” Carillo. “What it comes down to is what can I do to help the team. We all feel that way. We put out all the effort we could have. All the practice and all the games we had together came down to this one, we didn’t get what we wanted but, for the most part, we are happy with our effort.”
Carillo played out of his normal defender position in this match as midfielder Stuart Thurston was moved to the back line. Adam Soto wasn’t 100 percent for the game, yet competed. Nick Stewart was hurt 15 minutes into the contest but gamed on. Heston Allred overcame a strained knee in the semifinals. The team had just dealt with losing senior star defender Jacob Sanders to injury and seniors Ilka Kettunen and Martin Gjerde to team rules.
The Crimson Bears reached down and stepped up to play on the state stage: seniors Carillo, Eric Bookless, Randon Calderwood, Hunter Kirkpatrick, and Peter Bellagh were called upon to enter the pitch and fill a void next to standouts such as Stanger, Johnny Joyce, Soto and Colin Zheng.
“I feel good,” senior Heston Allred said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better four-year soccer career anywhere else than in Juneau.”
This group of Crimson Bears’ lads has been playing together since the fourth grade, when the Juneau Soccer Club Thunder rolled on the pitch.
“I think we played flawlessly for the most part,” Allred said. “It was a good game for sure. I think we did great. We held our own the entire game. I am really glad we held strong with them the entire time. I think people thought they would run over us, but we came out full bore and did great. It was a tough one but we held up and overall, we are not to disappointed.”
Coach Lehnhart stated the team was getting enough offense in the first half to keep Dimond honest.
In the second half, however, momentum was not in the Crimson Bears’ favor. Facing a head wind and a top Dimond defense the Crimson Bears had limited shots on goal.
Dimond featured 10 seniors. They were part of a core that finished third at state last season, lost to Juneau in the championship in 2010, and finished third in 2009.
Dimond’s senior midfielder Sedor is headed to play at Gonzaga University in the fall.
Juneau’s soccer class of seniors was 18 strong during the season. They were the two-time defending state champions and in seven of the last eight title games, winning three (five total). Crimson Bears’ junior Jackson Lehnhart, was the runner-up Gatorade Player Of The Year to Sedor. The award is based on athletic and academic achievement, and community involvement.
It sounds like it could apply to any Crimson Bears player.
Jackson Lehnhart put a shot off the corner of the goal post that, a half-inch left, would have scored. Lehnhart set up Darien Stanger who put a couple chances on goal. A number of Crimson Bears’ free kicks were headed around the box.
“We had some chances,” coach Lehnhart said. “Probably eight legitimate chances to score, plus some headers. But so did they. Even though you don’t like to lose, I think the kids feel good about their effort. If you are going to have to lose, I guess you would rather lose in the last game of the state tournament.”
Dimond out shot the Crimson Bears 2-to-1; meaning JDHS senior keeper Max Lyons played a phenomenal game in the box against a powerful offensive attack.
“We have always felt very good that Max was the guy manning the net for us,” coach Lehnhart said. “He is a reason we were successful. We did the best we could today, and certainly lost to a team that was well deserving. It was a clean classy game and our players had quite a bit of respect for Dimond. They have had a talented bunch for three years.”
Junior Jackson Lehnhart and senior Johnny Joyce were selected to the All-State Tournament team, as were Crimson Bears girl’s soccer senior Solana Ashe and sophomore Rebekka Ord.
The Crimson Bears girl’s team won the highest Grade Point Average Award. The West Valley girls and Homer boys won the Sportsmanship Awards.
The boys’ all-tournament team selections are: Kyler Perry, Wasilla; Jacob Spannagel, Colony; Johnny Joyce, Juneau; Robin Glosser, Homer; Arturo Oberto, Dimond; Zak Naylor, South; Conor Stearns, West; Austin Portch, Dimond; Josh Contreras, West; Hayden Western, South; Lennart Von Schlichting, Homer; Jackson Lehnhart, Juneau; Michael Sedor, Dimond; Travis Merritt, Dimond.
The girl’s all-tournament team are: Katrina Wood, Grace Christian; Miranda Wolfe, Soldotna; Morgan Hooe, South; Katelynn Zanders, South; Sarah Johnson, South; Jesslin Wooliver, Service; Mariah Williams, South; Aaliyah Lewis, Dimond; Ariela Lewis, Dimond; Alexis Rogers, Dimond; Maddison Ackiss, West Valley; Jill Phillips, West Valley; Solana Ashe, Juneau; Bekka Ord, Juneau.
Boy’s champs - Dimond 1, Juneau 0; 3rd/5th place - West 2, South 1; 4th/6th place - Homer 4, Colony 0; 8th - Wasilla and West Valley.
Girl’s champs - South 4, West Valley 0; 3rd/5th place - Dimond 1, Soldotna 1 (both awarded 3rd); 4th/6th place - Service 4, Kenai 0; 8th - JDHS and Grace Christian.