The Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team ended its final road trip of the regular season in winning fashion late Saturday, as the Crimson Bears edged the Service Cougars 2-1 in a fast-paced game with a few unusual twists.
The Crimson Bears (9-3-1 overall) got on the board first, in the eighth minute of the game. Senior Axel Thibodeau got his head on a corner kick, and then senior Kalon Wright knocked the ball to the ground, one-touched it and shot it past the Service goalkeeper.
Nine minutes later, Service evened the score of a corner kick of its own. Juneau defender Kirk Mearig and a Service player headed the kick at the same time, and the lightning-quick ricochet got past Juneau goalie Colin Conerton.
In the 24th minute, the Crimson Bears went up for good when Wright passed a ball in to junior Cameron Mitchell, who worked past one Cougar defender and buried a shot in the upper right corner.
Juneau coach Gary Lehnhart said the players were looking forward to the game for a number of reasons - facing a perennial soccer powerhouse, playing under the lights of a night game and matching up with Anchorage kids who are well-known to the Crimson Bears through club soccer.
"All of that played into the drama of the game," Lehnhart said.
And the game proved to have a number of dramatic moments. In the second half, Conerton was issued a yellow card and had to leave the game - and the Crimson Bears did not have a back-up goalie on the trip.
Thibodeau stepped in and played in goal for about five minutes, making one save before Conerton was able to re-enter the game on a throw-in substitution.
With 11 minutes to play, Juneau junior Nathan Schroeder and a Service player went for a header at the same time and their heads collided. Schroeder went down, and medical personnel at the field had him transported to a hospital as a precaution.
Ultimately, Schroeder was fine, and the game continued after a 10 to 15 minute delay. During that time, Service plotted strategy and came out with a strong attack that Juneau was able to counter. In the final seconds of the game, the Cougars (7-3-1) had a scoring opportunity that Juneau senior defender Kyle Thibodeau just managed to break up as the whistle sounded.
Lehnhart said the game was played more quickly and skillfully than Juneau's previous matches this season, but the Crimson Bears held up well. Junior Kiel Urata, in particular, performed well against a tough Service midfield.
Lehnhart gave meaningful minutes to all 17 players who dressed for the game in order to keep the team from getting worn down.
"Every one of them did great," he said. "It truly was a team effort, and we needed it."
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