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Coach forgets lunchbox, Crimson Bears sweep at Sitka

Posted: March 31, 2013 - 12:13am

The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears boy’s soccer team completed a road sweep of the Sitka Wolves on Saturday. All went smoothly except for one important element: someone forgot to bring the Lunchbox.

“At the end of the first game I looked over at assistant coaches Alex (Newton) and Jer (Gleason) a bit embarrassed,” JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. “I realized I had not brought the Lunchbox with us. It was the first time ever. That was the first two games in 15 years we have played without it.”

In 1995, then assistant coach Steve Kullander brought in his father’s metal lunch box. Kullander was a parent that came to so many practices when his kids were on the team that Lehnhart asked him to be an assistant coach and the players loved the idea. The lunchbox replaced a plastic one bought at a local store that was given to the player the team determined best exemplified their program during the game.

Over the years players have forgotten it, but would rush home to get it or, if on the road, parents would arrange for Alaska Airlines it to the team.

“It means even more that it belonged to a real person who took it to work,” Lehnhart said. “Long traditions like that are things that

It has become a tradition passed down from team-to-team. Each game a player is awarded the lunchbox and takes it home until the next game, placing some item inside that will remain until the season ends. Lehnhart then puts those items in his collection.

“At the end of the year I clean out the lunchbox,” Lehnhart said. “And add the things to my box. There are a lot of weird things over 18 years. Everything from hotel keys with notes attached, poems, and some really moving emotional things, braces, pieces of tape that are written on. It is really creative.”

This year’s team is so young Lehnhart had to explain what the program’s cheers stand for and what the Lunchbox means.

“It was a mystery to them,” Lehnhart said. “It was fun to be able to talk to them about what those things mean and why we say what we say.”

The Lunchbox is the team’s most prized award. It is given to the guy that works behind the scenes to do the work and get the job done. It remains a reward that is known only by the team.

“It means a lot to them,” Lehnhart said.

JDHS topped Sitka 10-2 Saturday on the pitch.

Nick Stewart scored at the 12-minute mark on a follow up shot that the Sitka goaltender defended; Oswaldo Magallanes at the 20-minute on an assist from Stuart Thurston; Ben Scudder on a throw in that the Sitka goal tender tipped in at the 28th-minute; Justin Bellagh from Antonio Hafferty a minute later; Thurston on a penalty kick at the 34th-minute; Justin Bellagh from Elias Rominov just prior to the half; Ryan Hoover scored at 41th and 45th-minutes on assists by Marc Heifetz and Frankie Gonzales; Gonzales scored unassisted at the 50th-minute; and Ashu Tingley on a free kick at the 57th-minute. Hunter Peague had two saves in the first half and one in the second.

“We played pretty much the whole second half with a lot of our reserves,” Lehnhart said. “I was impressed with Sitka. They are a new program and have a lot of enthusiasm. They played a good game both nights. They competed hard and are trying to do the right things. Even when they were down they were cheering.”

Sitka plays on a dirt pitch.

“We built our program on the dirt,” Lehnhart said. “We are spoiled now with our turf fields and indoor facilities. I reminded our players of that, that we built our program on the dirt. It was good to remind them that was how we paid our dues and we should appreciated what other programs are going through. Sitka is doing the right thing. I was really impressed.”

JDHS will play at Thunder Mountain tomorrow at 7 p.m. (JV action will go at 5:15 p.m.), then begin a four day series in Washington against Ferris and Mead High Schools in Spokane, Roosevelt in Seattle, and Newport in Bellevue.

The JDHS girls play at Thunder Mountain on Friday, April 5.

“We are into it now,” Lehnhart said. “We really haven’t had much time to play on a full length field. We have a lot of games this season.”

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