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After sweeping four games in Spokane, Wash., last weekend, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team was still riding the high when it returned home for practices this week.
But it didn't take long for the Crimson Bears to shift their focus to this weekend's games in Ketchikan. The defending state champion Crimson Bears still remember what happened last year in Ketchikan, and they want to make sure there isn't a repeat of last year's controversy on this trip.
Last year's trip to Ketchikan was scheduled after Juneau had already bought the tickets for its annual trip to Spokane, and the games ended up being on the same weekend. So Juneau, which had never lost to the Kings, decided to send its junior varsity team to Ketchikan.
Then, it was announced that even though Juneau's JV team was making the trip, the games would still count when it came time to determine which team got the lone Southeast berth at the state tournament. Juneau's JV won the first game 2-1, but lost the second game 7-0. When the two teams met again in Juneau, with the Crimson Bears playing their varsity, Juneau won 11-0 and 6-0 to clinch the state berth.
With Juneau's varsity playing in all four Ketchikan games this year (Juneau hosts the Kings on May 17-18), the Crimson Bears want to make it a clean sweep so there's no doubt who gets the state berth.
"We can't take Ketchikan lightly," Juneau senior striker Travis Croteau said.
"These are our biggest games of the year," Juneau senior defender Collin Daugherty said.
The way Juneau played last weekend, though, Ketchikan will have a difficult task in wresting the state berth away from the Crimson Bears. Even though Juneau hadn't had a full-field practice before making the trip, the Crimson Bears beat four schools from Spokane by a combined score of 11-1, including three of the top four in Spokane. Seven different players scored goals for Juneau.
"It was awesome," senior defensive back Jake Haas said. "The Spokane games prepared us for these games. Our teamwork really came together."
"I was a little shocked," Croteau said. "I was expecting it to be more difficult. But all that training in the offseason paid off. It really helped. It took awhile to get flowing and get our rhythm, but the last game was our best game as a team. We definitely have room to grow."
The lone goal Juneau gave up in Spokane was on a miscommunication between a defender and a backup goalkeeper, otherwise the Crimson Bears had a chance to have a shutout for the trip.
"We're perfectionists, so we're still upset about that goal," Daugherty said.
The Crimson Bears will be returning to their roots, in a way, when they play at Ketchikan.
Today's 7 p.m. and Saturday's 1 p.m. games will both be played at Norman Walker Field (next to Schoenbar Middle School), which is a hard-packed dirt and sand field. This will be Juneau's second year playing home games on the artificial turf at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, but the older Crimson Bears remember when their home field was dirt and sand and some people called it "The Juneau Litterbox."
"We're going to be real dinged up after these," Daugherty said.
"We haven't forgotten how to play on the dirt," Croteau said. "We still play games in the summer on dirt fields. But we're not looking forward to it."
Many of the Juneau players don't remember a lot of the Ketchikan players. But Ketchikan coach Wayne Kinunen told the Ketchikan Daily News this week his team doesn't have a lot of stars and his captains will be seniors Jay Miller and Weston Wade and junior Taylor Jones.
"We'll play them like we did the Spokane teams, like we don't know them," Daugherty said. "They were big and aggressive, but if we play our game we should be OK."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.