High-powered Bears play for perfect finish

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flair, power and speed are just a few of the traits associated with the undefeated Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Come Saturday, the Crimson Bears hope to have one more label attached to them - state champs. The road to a state title starts at 6 p.m. tonight against Colony in the Alaska School Activities Association State Soccer Championships quarterfinal round at Anchorage Football Stadium.

"As much as you don't want to say, because it's been a great season and we've done well, but the tournament is so big," JDHS center midfielder Colin Flynn said. "Maybe it shouldn't be as important as it is, but it's in everyone's minds and that's what everyone remembers."

One of the most talented and deepest senior classes in JDHS history will conclude not only this season, but nearly a decade of playing together this weekend.

The only thing missing on their remarkable resume is a state title. For the last three years, the state championship has resided in Anchorage's southside at South Anchorage High School. In the last two seasons, the Wolverines won the title by edging JDHS in the final.

The opportunity to get one last crack at the champs is something the Crimson Bears are savoring.

"It's awesome," JDHS center fullback Zach Farrington said. "I don't know much else to say other than we'd be pretty much upset if we don't end up winning, but we can look at our season with a high head because we're undefeated.

"We're not set with where we are right now but we're definitely happy."

South received a top seed while the tournament committee seeded Juneau-Douglas second, setting up a potential third-straight Wolverines-Crimson Bears final.

Juneau-Douglas must win today and Friday, though, to get to the final. One slip up could end the dream.

"The natural tendency is to immediately jump to what it's been like the last few years," JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. "It's way too premature for that even though we're seeded 1-2 and the difference in seeding came down to the fact that they had more games than we did.

"There's still, for both teams, two really tough games. The minute you start to think you don't need to take those opponents seriously is the day you wake up and you're not in the final."

No matter what happens this weekend, the 2008 Bears will be remembered as one of the deepest and more entertaining teams in recent memory.

By constantly substituting outside players and employing a three-man back, Juneau-Douglas applies constant, consistent pressure to opponents. Lehnhart's deep bench, coupled with an attacking style of play, has led to an offensive explosion.

JDHS scored 64 goals in 14 games this season for an average of 4.7 goals per game.

"We've always had good players but this team has so many," Flynn said. "There's a strong player in every part of the field. We're pretty widespread. The number of quality players we have is higher than it's ever really been."

Even though the Bears have scored a multitude of goals, they haven't neglected their defensive duties.

JDHS earned five shutouts this year and have given up 14 goals all season.

Farrington quarterbacks the defense as the central defender.

"I think Zach Farrington is the most improved player in our history," Lehnhart said. "That's saying something because it wasn't like he wasn't a good player as a freshman. It shows you how good he's become."

State title or not, the weekend will mark an end to high school careers of the seniors.

After forging an uncommon chemistry on the pitch following years of practices and competitions, the team plays with a unique style. Most importantly, however, are the friendships developed along the way.

"I've been thinking about it a long time," Isaac Stark said. "It's the last three games we'll play together as a team and then we'll all split up and go our separate ways. It's a big deal for this year."

• Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or sports@juneauempire.com.

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