Two years removed from the boys' last state title, Juneau-Douglas is once again on top of the Alaska prep soccer world.
After Friday's thrilling 1-0 victory over second-seeded Colony, the Crimson Bears defeated No. 5 Dimond 2-1 in the final game of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2010 Soccer State Championships to grab the fourth state title in school history.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the final 10 minutes of the game, the Juneau-Douglas defense locked down the Dimond attack during a hectic final attempt at an equalizer, and the Crimson Bears mobbed one another at midfield after the final whistle.
"The emotion that I had right after the game, I've never felt that before," Bears senior forward Victor Wilson said. "I can't even believe this happened."
Tied at nil-nil at the half, Bears junior forward Max Smith found the ball in the air off the head of junior forward Rhett Bennett, and headed it into the net in the first minute of the second half.
But Smith was not finished. Just 20 minutes later, a Juneau-Douglas throw-in found its way into a clearing in the box where Smith jumped and executed a perfect bicycle kick that sent the ball glancing off a Dimond defender and into the top left corner to put the Bears up 2-0.
"I just did what I practice all the time. I'm comfortable in front of goal and when I get the chance, I'm going to take it," Smith said. "I guess I got lucky. The ball bounced to me at the right time and in the right place, and I scored."
But in the final four minutes of the contest, the Crimson Bears were whistled for a foul in the penalty box and the Lynx capitalized on the ensuing penalty kick to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.
With the goal, Dimond's intensity skyrocketed, giving the players confidence they could get one more to force extra time.
But the Bears would have none of it, turning the Lynx away time and time again to preserve the win and the state championship.
Anchoring the defense was JDHS seniort Phil Murray, whose efforts earned him Player of the Game honors. Murray said the the entire team made a difference on the defensive end late in the game, not just the back line.
"The defense was absolutely phenomenal," Murray said. "Not just the back three but the flanks, the defensive mid(fielders) and everyone. It was just an all-around effort, especially in the last 20 minutes. We never could have done it without every single one of those guys.
"They did exactly what they were supposed to do."
One day after South Anchorage coach Michael Montgomery dubbed Friday's match between South and Dimond as the de facto championship game, the Bears responded with a convincing win to bolster its claim as the best high school soccer team in Alaska.
"I think he knows - everyone knows what this proves," Wilson said of Montgomery's comments. "We're the best team in the state, and we showed that today."
Juneau-Douglas coach Gary Lehnhart agreed with Wilson, saying Montgomery's words fueled an already hungry Bears team.
"This is the eleventh (ASAA sanctioned) state championship; we've won four of them and we've been in the final nine times," he said. "So to hear that kind of garbage again, in a way, it was the last thing that got us going there at the end.
"It was just one more time we had to go out and prove how good we are."
During the final minutes, senior Nick Rutecki checked into the game and found himself in the middle of the Bears' final stand. He was immediately tangled in the corner with a Dimond attacker trying to cross the ball into the box from the left corner.
"It was exciting, especially to finish my senior year on the field. There was a big battle in the corner and it was pretty physical and fun. That's the best part of the game," he said. "Winning for me is fun, but it's a lot more fun to see everybody else happy."
Lehnhart said Juneau-Douglas played tough defense all year, and the consistency on that end of the field made all the difference.
"Our goal was to keep (their score) at zero. We gave up one on a penalty but for the most part, we kept it at zero," he said. "We played good defense all year and that was our one constant."
The Bears also received help in the form of Smith coming back from a hip injury just before the start of the tournament, and Lehnhart said that was key.
"I think we saw in the tournament how those injuries hurt us, but we got some people back and Max (Smith) was one of those guys," he said. "Today, he shined."
Bears blank Knights in semis
Friday's finale in the second round of the ASAA/First National Bank 2010 Soccer State Championships was the match of the day as the Crimson Bears boys' soccer team snuck by the Colony Knights 1-0 in a game that ended in extra time.
In the 96th minute, senior Luc Rondeau found a crease in the Colony box and jumped in to volley the ball home for the eventual game-winning goal.
The No. 3 Crimson Bears held off a final push from the No. 2 Knights to earn their way to the state championship game Saturday afternoon at Adair-Kennedy Field against the Dimond Lynx, who earlier defeated top-seeded South Anchorage 2-0.
"I stayed on my line and was able to volley it in," said Rondeau of his game-winning score. "I thought we stepped up our urgency a lot, and we just played with everything we had and got it done."
The score gave the Bears the opportunity to bring the state title back to Juneau after coming up short in last year's bid for back-to-back championships after winning it all in 2008.
"We subbed a lot, and I think that helped us stay pretty fresh. We had some close ones down there at the end where we thought we got it," Bears coach Gary Lehnhart said. "There were stretches where we were really on our heels. They took the game to us, but Taylor (Lehnhart) had a great game. He owned his box."
Lehnhart, the senior keeper in goal for JDHS, was awarded Player of the Game for his efforts during the shutout, and after the game he credited his team's performance.
"Colony is a very strong team and it was a great all-around game," he said. "We just had to keep pushing and keep fresh with our wide bench. That helped a lot in this heat."
But Lehnhart kept the ball out of the goal for the entire 100 minutes of play, even under the desperation play of the Knights' offensive attack.
"I just looked for the next save the whole game," he said. "I was always thinking about what I had to do next to keep the score at zero."
The effort in goal was even more impressive considering the lopsided number of free balls the Knights had. Coach Lehnhart said even though the defense's effort was great, the Bears had a problem keeping possession of the ball.
"We were really struggling with keeping the ball in bounds. We just had a hard time because we gave them so many throw-ins," he said. "We made the game harder by doing that, but we did a good job defending afterward."
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.