ANCHORAGE -- Travis Croteau's breakaway goal with two minutes reamaining lifted the Juneau-Douglas boys' soccer team to a 2-1 victory over the Service Cougars in the opening round of the state soccer tournament Thursday night at Dimond High School.
Croteau scored when teammate Robert Lossett won a loose ball in midfield, sent it ahead to Justin Dorn, who passed it forward to Croteau on the breakaway. It was the climax of a sensational comeback by the Crimson Bears who trailed 1-0 at the half.
"I think we have more depth than these guys," Lossett said. "It took awhile to get started, but once we did we really got it going."
With the victory, the defending state runner-up Juneau boys (10-3-1 overall) advance into today's 2 p.m. semifinal game against the East Anchorage Thunderbirds (6-9-0) at Anchorage Football Stadium. Service fell to 7-6-2 with the loss. East claimed a 4-1 victory over the Palmer Moose (9-4-2) in a first-round game Thursday at AFS. In the other first-round games Thursday at AFS, the Dimond Lynx (10-2-2) claimed a 2-0 victory over the Kenai Kardinals (9-4-1) and the West Anchorage Eagles (10-2-1) blanked 3-0 the defending state champion Colony Knights (11-3-1).
Dimond and West will play in today's noon semifinal at AFS. East is the only team from Alaska to beat the Crimson Bears, having claimed a 3-2 victory three weekends ago. Including that game, Juneau has outscored its Alaska opponents 42-6 this season. The two semifinal winners will meet for the championship at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the semifinal losers playing in the third-fifth place game at 9 a.m. Saturday, both at AFS.
Juneau, which edged Service 1-0 two weekends ago, fell behind with three minutes left in the first half as Service's Colin Carpenter scored an unassisted goal to make it 1-0 Cougars.
But the Crimson Bears tied the game in the seventh minute of the second half as Dorn scored on an assist from Croteau, who took a crossing pass from Jonathan Rue to set up the play. Juneau had several chances in the second half, but kept sending the ball wide of the Service goal.
Then, with 11 minutes left in the game, Service's Paul Duffy got loose on a breakaway down the left side and Juneau defender Callahan Dillon came from the middle to stop what looked like a sure one-on-one chance against Juneau goalkeeper Colin Conerton, who started in place of usual goalkeeper Zuriel 'Zee' Ebron who's still sore from a shoulder injury suffered in Juneau's last game with Service. On the breakaway, Dillon went down with what appeared to be a dislocated left kneecap. Even though Lehnhart said Dillon wanted to continue playing, Dillon was carried off the field and sent to the hospital for x-rays. Jacob Haas and Kirk Mearig filled in for Dillon the rest of the game.
"Callahan was having a good game," Lehnhart said. "I hope he'll be OK to play tomorrow because we need him to mark Jevon (Miller of East, last year's Gatorade state player of the year). But if he's not able to play, Jacob Haas and Kirk Mearig are good players."
After Dillon went out, Juneau's offense stepped up and kept Service from attacking the rest of the game. With two minutes left to play, Juneau finally converted as Croteau scored the game-winning goal.
The Juneau-Service game was the only boys first-round game played on grass. All the other first-round games were played on the artificial turf at AFS, which is where all the rest of Juneau's games will be played.
"It was real bouncy out there," Conerton said. "Both teams came to play, and we knew our seniors would lead us."
Fanning won the team's lunch-box award, which is given to the player the Juneau coaches decided did all the little things necessary to win. He marked three of Service's tougher offensive players at various times during the game, helping seal them off so they couldn't get any shots at Conerton.
"The lunch box goes to the player who sets down his lunch and goes to work," Dorn said. "They came to play, and we came to play. It was a good game and it was good to get this first one out of the way."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.