Hemmed in by trees and the looming hulk of Thunder Mountain, Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park was a pressure cooker Friday night with the steam of soccer players' collective breath lingering in the cool, damp air.
In a game more physical, competitive and tense than any other recent home match, the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bear boys soccer squad beat the Service Cougars 1-0.
The contest, played under a steady rain of varying intensity, was a rematch of last season's state championship game, which the Crimson Bears won by the same score.
"We came in knowing these guys would be good competition, and that's what we got," said Juneau junior Dan Hernandez, whose efforts on defense earned him the team's "lunchbox" award. "It was an intense game on both sides."
Juneau sophomore Kabil Seesan scored the game's lone goal in the 66th minute - the 26th minute of the second half - on an assist from sophomore Dylan Ashe, who scored the game-winning goal in last year's state title game.
The two teams played again on Saturday - with both squads starting most of their reserves - and Service won 3-1 in a game that doesn't count in team records.
Juneau's victory Friday was another chapter in what has become one of the state's top soccer rivalries.
"It was exciting," Juneau coach Gary Lehnhart said. "A big crowd, action - a typical Juneau-Service game, a lot of energy. ... There is something about a rivalry that just brings out the excitement in everybody."
Service (3-1-1 overall) threatened several times in the opening minutes before Juneau (8-0-1) started to put pressure the Cougars' defensive back line and goalkeeper Eamon Smith.
In the 10th minute, Juneau junior Ian Brinkman made a long pass upfield to Ashe, whose header was just tipped up and over the crossbar by Smith. Nine minutes later, Smith did the same on a shot by senior Nathan Schroeder from about 30 yards out.
In the 32nd minute, senior co-captain Kiel Urata found sophomore Jamaal Bailey breaking up the middle, but Smith made the save in a collision with Bailey.
"We haven't played a team as fast as Juneau before (this season)," Service coach Dan Rufner said. "Our guys were chasing a little too much."
In the second minute of injury time for the first half - moments before halftime - a shot by Service's Daniel Wilkins got past Juneau keeper Matthew Walton, but the goal was disallowed on an offsides call to maintain the scoreless tie.
Juneau senior co-captain Alex Newton said the Crimson Bears' opportunities on offense set Friday's game apart from last year's state title game, when Ashe scored early and Juneau fell into a defensive stand.
"We played better (Friday) than we did" in the state title game, Newton said of the Crimson Bear offense. "We had a lot more shot opportunities. The score could have been more than 1-0."
Juneau kept up the pressure in the second half. In the 52nd minute - the 12th minute of the second half - Brinkman launched a free kick from 25 yards out that bounced away from Smith, the Service keeper. Ashe tracked the ball down on the left baseline, but his off-balance shot went wide.
Service's offense picked up with free kicks in Juneau territory in the 56th and 59th minutes, and a corner kick in the 62nd. But Juneau's defensive back line - including Hernandez, Brinkman and Matt Kern - managed to clear the ball.
"We kept it at zero," Lehnhart said. "The game went up and down, ebbed and flowed. We kept our composure and played through the rough spots."
Lehnhart praised Urata and Newton for keeping control of the midfield and preventing Service from building momentum.
In the 66th minute, Ashe and Seesan combined for the game's lone score. Ashe took the ball deep into the right corner, did a 270-degree spin to shake a Service defender and fired a pass inside to Seesan, who was breaking up the middle and buried the shot.
Service's kickoff after the goal got behind Juneau's defense, but the Crimson Bears held. And in the game's closing moments - the fourth minute of injury time - Kern cleared the ball out of the box with a header to help preserve the win. Moments later, he was knocked to the ground in a collision with a Service player and had to leave the game.
Many Crimson Bears were bruised after the game. Newton said Saturday that he was more worn out after Friday's match than after playing four games in four days in Spokane, Wash., earlier this season.
But the Crimson Bears weren't complaining.
"I wish we had games like that every weekend," Brinkman said.
Service 3, Juneau-Douglas 1
Service broke open a scoreless tie with two goals in the opening minutes of the second half, and the Cougars beat the Crimson Bears on Saturday in a friendly match that gave significant playing time to reserve players for both squads.
Most of Juneau's and several of Service's starters from Friday's game sat out on Saturday.
Though Juneau was beset by injuries in the first half, the Crimson Bears held their own against the larger Service squad. Juneau's defense - including Richard Isett, Cheyenne Sanchez, Nick Campbell and keeper Ed Mertz - thwarted a number of Cougar scoring chances in the half.
Eric Gullufsen, Ephraim Froehlich and Mark Rainery came back from midfield to assist in stopping the Cougars.
In the 23rd minute, Gullefsen and Brian Reishus collided with Service keeper A.J. Randall and Reishus knocked the ball into the net, but the goal was negated on a foul.
In the 42nd minute - the second minute of the second half - Service's Will Ziegahn got the Cougars on the board with a goal. Six minutes later, the Cougars' Brian Schmitz headed in a cross pass from Deven Williams to put Service up 2-0.
Daniel Wilkins tallied Service's final score in the 33rd minute.
In the 37th minute, the Crimson Bears scored their goal when Roberto Chu tangled with Service goalie Eamon Smith, Chu tapped toward the center and Jeff Shin was there to sink the shot in the open net.
Kabil Seesan, Nick Ellenbecker and Carlo Ebron were among the Juneau players applying offensive pressure in the game.
Six Crimson Bears played a double-header Saturday. They were on the field in an earlier, 3-0 Juneau JV loss to a JDHS alumni squad.
Juneau Riptide U15 boys 3, Juneau-Douglas varsity girls 1
Dominic Smith scored one goal and assisted on another as the Juneau Soccer Club Riptide boys beat the Juneau-Douglas High School varsity girls squad in a scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Smith scored when his corner kick found the back of the net, and assisted on a goal by Sam Greely. Colin Flynn scored the Riptide's other goal, off a corner kick by Zach Farrington.
Jessy Post scored the Juneau girls' lone goal on a corner kick.
The Juneau boys and girls will play several games in Anchorage later this week.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
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