ANCHORAGE -- The Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team was celebrating its 1-0 victory over the Dimond Lynx Saturday night in the state championship game -- holding the trophy aloft while parents took team pictures -- when Juneau junior defender Collin Daugherty put things in perspective.
"This is the perfect last chapter to a great book," Daugherty said as he watched his teammates hugging each other on the Anchorage Football Stadium artificial turf.
"I'm feeling great," senior defender Jeff Fanning said. "This has taken four years of effort to get here, and all those runs up Blueberry Hill now seem worthwhile."
The Crimson Bears (12-3-1 overall) capped off a season that really began with a 3-2 loss to the Colony Knights in last year's state championship game. In that game, Juneau outplayed Colony for about 65 of the game's 80 minutes. But a 15-minute lapse early in the second half led to three Colony goals and a second-place state finish.
"This is so much better," Juneau senior midfielder Justin Dorn said. "This proves we can play with them.
"All of us who were here last year used that game as motivation," Juneau senior midfielder Luke Knowles said. "We were just motivated to win this game. That first time showed us we could play with them and this shows we can beat them. And we're only losing four seniors, so we've got everybody coming back."
Juneau's four seniors -- Fanning, Dorn, Knowles and midfielder Cal Craig -- played a large role in leading the Crimson Bears this season, but there is a strong group of underclassmen that also played significant roles during the year.
The only goal of the game came in the 10th minute of the first half as sophomore midfielder Lee Sullivan chipped a pass over the Dimond defense and junior forward Robert Lossett then shot it past Dimond goalkeeper Nik O'Blenness. Lossett said a lot of the credit for his goal was deserved by his teammates.
"My team does it, I just get the ball in front of the net," said Lossett, who joined Dorn and Knowles on the all-state tournament team. "This was for our senior guys. They're the heart and soul of our team."
Juneau had a chance to add an insurance goal two minutes into the second half, but Jonathan Rue's indirect free kick went over the net. Midway through the second half, Dorn received a yellow card for clutching a Dimond player and Lossett received a yellow card following a collission with O'Blenness when both players were going after a loose ball in front of the net. The collission resulted in O'Blenness having to leave the game with what Dimond coach David Gonzalez said might be a broken shin bone.
"We think he might have a broken leg because the impact broke his shin guard," said Gonzalez, whose team finished 11-3-2 this season with two of those losses to Juneau. "It was unintentional."
With 14 minutes remaining in the game, Juneau junior goalkeeper Zuriel 'Zee' Ebron had to make a game-saving stop of a shot by Dimond's Travis Bailey. Bailey picked up a loose ball in a crowd in front of the Juneau goal and his rocket sent Ebron diving to his right, with the deflection kicking out of bounds off the goalpost.
"That was a magical save at the end, a phenomenal save," Gonzalez said. "We played a good game, we just came up a little bit short."
"Our defense did a good job," said Ebron, who sat out Juneau's 1-0 opening-round victory over Service on Thursday and also missed the first half of Friday's semifinal with East Anchorage because of a shoulder injury. "I feel really safe with our defense."
In order to reach the championship game, the Crimson Bears had to avenge their only loss to an Alaska team this season by beating the Thunderbirds 7-3 in Friday afternoon's semifinal.
In that game, Juneau jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the game's first five minutes but East countered with three goals in a five-minute period late in the half to take a 3-2 halftime lead. Juneau responded in the second half by tying the score in the second minute on a beautiful give-and-go move where Dorn passed the ball to Sullivan, then found an open space where Sullivan sent it back to Dorn for the goal. The Crimson Bears then scored four more goals before subbing heavily into their bench midway through the half.
Dorn and Lossett both finished with three goals and an assist apiece, while Rue added a goal and one assist, Knowles had two assists, and Travis Croteau and Sullivan had one assist each. Dorn's third goal was the 50th of his high school career. Tom Marriage scored two goals for East, with the other goal coming from Jevon Miller on an assist from Josh Wilson.
"Coach (Gary Lehnhart) if we score the first goal of the half we'd regain the momentum," Lossett said.
"I told them I'd rather have my guys and us being a goal down, than to have their team with a one-goal halftime lead," Lehnhart said. "With the two-goal lead I think we let down a bit."
The game was Juneau's first without key junior defender Callahan Dillon, who dislocated his left kneecap stopping a breakaway in the victory over Service. Junior Jake Haas and sophomore Kirk Mearig replaced Dillon for the rest of the tournament.
"We knew Collin (Daugherty) was behind our back," Haas said. "We're pretty solid on defense and if one of us goes down, there are others who can play. We have a lot of depth on our JV, too."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.