With 16:09 remaining in the first half of Thunder Mountain High School’s home game against Juneau-Douglas on Friday night, Falcons junior Michaela Demmert crossed a pass in front of the Crimson Bears’ net and freshman teammate Amber White scrapped in a pack of white and black-clad soccer players.
White’s grit paid off as she put in the first ever Falcons’ goal against their cross-town rival and started what would be an historic night for TMHS.
“Just hustle and determination,” TMHS coach Kris Coffee said. “Just not stopping. Fighting from the first of the game, just playing hard. The team deserves all the credit. They worked hard and they wanted it. I think for the first time they felt like it could really happen, and it did.”
Demmert crossed a pass at the 39-minute mark as well and freshman Jacky Jenson followed up to tuck the shot into the goal for a 2-0 lead at half.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Falcons’ senior Carmen Smith said of the long overdue win. “I am just so happy. So many years I have wanted this, and to just do it in this way is amazing. We talked a lot out there and we made really good passes. We worked well together out there. We had our two freshmen score goals and we had a defender score, that is amazing.”
Demmert would go down in the opening minutes of the second half with a severely sprained ankle and was carried to the sideline where she tried to watch the remainder of the match.
In her absence the team rallied with their same pressure and goal tender Claire White became a wall in front of the Falcons’ net.
Falcons’ defender Calley Odum lofted a long shot over the Crimson Bears’ net minder 12 minutes into the second half for a commanding 3-0 lead.
“I thought both teams battled,” JDHS coach Matt Dusenberry said. “Tonight was a good way to start the season as far as now we know we have some work, they know they have some work, and it should be a little bit more interesting for the conference this year.”
JDHS had five shots on goal in the second half and each had a better-than-average chance at going in if not for the solid goalmouth defense by the Falcons’ White.
White turned away a Rylee Landen shot and dove on two free balls.
JDHS put a shot wide and another off the top of the cross bar and down a foot in front of the goal where a Falcons’ defender booted it out of bounds.
JDHS’ Landen found a beautiful goal on the run with a perfect assist by Kymberlee Kelly in the later stages of the game to get the JDHS on the board. Kelly picked the ball up in the middle, dribbled through and pulled some defenders, and then played the pass through to Landen.
Landen had just one defender to beat and tucked the shot in under the Falcons’ keeper.
“Getting the goal we got there and creating that chances were positives,” Dusenberry said. “Who knows, it could have been a different game, we hit the cross bar. They could play what if too, but we hit the cross bar, Claire came up big for them on another.”
The Crimson Bears awarded Rylee Landen with their coveted Hard Hat award, given to the player who best exemplifies the never-give-up spirit.
“I appreciate this,” Landen said. “I would have much rather won but we were playing hard.”
For the Falcons, coach Coffee was too stunned to consider her player of the game.
“I would have to say Claire did amazing in goal,” Coffee said. “Gosh, I don’t know. They all played their hearts out. We have found many ways to measure success, but it is nice to finally be able to do it with a win.”
Net minder Claire White was overcome with emotion after the match.
“I feel incredible,” White said. “I am so proud of our team. It just feels really good to have won that and saved all those balls. It is just amazing. It makes up for the prior years so well. It is the best feeling ever.”
The Falcons next host Ketchikan on April 16-17; the Crimson Bears host Chugiak on April 12-13.