PALMER - Lee Sullivan won the lunchbox award, but Alex Sadighi got the lunch.
Sullivan scored a goal and assisted on a goal by Sadighi to lead the Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team to a 2-0 victory over the East Anchorage Thunderbirds in the first round of the state tournament Thursday night at Colony High School.
For his efforts, Sullivan was named the player of the game for Juneau by the tournament committee and he won the team's lunchbox award from coach Gary Lehnhart because of the energy he brought to the game - especially in the first half when the Crimson Bears were a little bit lethargic on offense.
Then, as the last Juneau players were straggling off the field, one of the tournament committee members said there was an extra tray of sandwiches and she offered them to the players. Sadighi said he'd take the tray to the van so the team could share them.
Sullivan earned the lunchbox, but Sadighi filled it with lunch.
The victory over East was the third straight time Juneau beat the Thunderbirds in the first round of the state tournament. Even though the two teams didn't played earlier this season, the previous years' meetings helped the Crimson Bears.
"The last three years in the first game we played East," said Sullivan, who was one of two Juneau players - the other was defender Kyle Thibodeau - to die their hair bright red for the tournament. "We'd seen them play before. They're always a good side. It's always nice to play someone you know. They were hurt when their star defender (Renaldo Canady) went down."
Juneau (12-3-1 overall) took a 1-0 lead in the game's 12th minute when Sullivan scored on a penalty kick after an inadvertent East hand-ball in East's penalty area. The goal came two minutes after Juneau had an apparent goal by Sadighi disallowed by an offsides call.
"Let's say I just put it in the corner," said Sullivan, as Juneau goalkeeper Colin Conerton told him not to say which side he was aiming for (Conerton didn't want a future Juneau opponent to read what side Sullivan went for in case the Crimson Bears end up in a game that goes into an overtime shootout).
Today's Juneau games
Juneau-Douglas (12-3-1) vs. Wasilla (9-3-2)
6 p.m. at Wasilla
Juneau-Douglas (12-1-1) vs. Palmer (8-4-1)
Noon at Wasilla
The Crimson Bears had another good scoring chance in the game's 22nd minute, when Sadighi took a pass from Kalon Wright and shot it into East goalkeeper Aaron Novakovich's arms. While Novakovich was gathering up the ball, there was a collision between about four players in front of Novakovich and Canady went down with a leg injury. Canady sat out the rest of the first half, tried to come back in the second half but had to come out midway through the period. Sullivan went down in a collision in the game's 38th minute, but he returned after halftime.
"The first half we got a goal, but the second half I thought we played really well," Conerton said. "It's our defense. It always does a good job. I had one tough shot, a mid(field) free kick that hit the ground and really picked up speed. I thought it was coming in slow, then zoom. But all the credit goes to the defense. If it wasn't for them, it'd be a lot more work."
Juneau added an insurance goal in the second half when Sadighi scored on an assist from Sullivan. The ball came over to Sullivan when he was near midfield, and he put on a burst of speed to beat two East defenders as he raced down the left sideline. As he neared the goalline, Sullivan made a blind centering pass to Sadighi, who knocked the ball past Novakovich.
"I didn't see him; I was just hoping someone was there," Sullivan said.
The Crimson Bears are 12-3-1 this season.
"Lee's done that before," said Sadighi, who plans to play college tennis next year at Gustavus Adolphus University in Minnesota. "If I'm there and can get my foot on it, Lee puts the ball there. I didn't do anything - Lee did all the work."
Conerton used a football analogy to describe the play.
"It was like a route in football, where Lee's the quarterback and Sadighi's the wide receiver," Conerton said.
"I always wanted to be Jerry Rice," Sadighi said.
"Yeah, it was like Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, or Joe Montana to - who was that in the back of the end zone - John Taylor," Conerton said.
"OK, enough with the football analogies," Sullivan said.
After taking the 2-0 lead, Juneau held the ball on East's side of the field for the rest of the game; only two runs by the Thunderbirds (5-8-2) even came near Conerton.
The Crimson Bears will play the Wasilla Warriors in the semifinals today at 6 p.m. at Wasilla High School. Wasilla upset Region IV second seed West Anchorage 3-0 on Thursday. Earlier this season, Juneau beat the Warriors 2-0 in a windy game at Wasilla. If the Crimson Bears win again, they will play in their fourth straight state championship game, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Wasilla High School.
"The wind seemed to re-energize us," Conerton said of the breeze that picked up in the second half and favored Juneau's direction. "Wasilla we've seen before, and it was windy like this. Wasilla's a big team, almost as tall as us."
In the other boys first-round games on Thursday, Service crunched Grace Christian School 9-1 and Colony upset 2002 state champion Dimond 2-1. Service and Colony will play in today's 4 p.m. semifinal game at Wasilla High School.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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