ANCHORAGE - When an entire season boiled down to one 80-minute game, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team showed itself and the state how to seize an opportunity.
The Crimson Bears ended South Anchorage's three-year reign as state champions with a 2-0 victory in the Alaska School Activities Association State Soccer Championships final Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium.
After losing to the Wolverines in the 2006 and 2007 finals, JDHS made sure the trilogy's final chapter would have a happy ending.
"Long story short, this is better than Christmas," Juneau senior Dominic Smith said. "We've been waiting for this since our freshman years, and we deserve it."
Juneau won its third state championship in program history after previously claiming the 2001 and 2003 titles. JDHS also finished undefeated with a 15-0-2 record.
As the referee in charge blew the final whistle, the Crimson Bears congregated toward midfield with arms extended. There was no jumping or hollering, just smiles and hugs.
It was happiness mixed with relief. For Juneau, accomplishment came not just from hoisting the champion's trophy, but simply by beating South.
"Three out of my four years in high school, South's been champions," JDHS senior Zach Farrington said. "To take it away from them feels mighty fine."
Prior to Saturday, the Wolverines never lost a playoff game and owned a two-year winning streak against Alaska opponents.
The two teams played to a 4-4 tie in the regular season.
"We've been trying from day one just to beat South," Smith said.
Unlike the previous two tournament games, Juneau-Douglas looked comfortable and confident from the onset.
The Bears pushed South early by dominating the midfield and not allowing Wolverine strikers Spencer Augustin and Michael Naylor any room to maneuver.
JDHS then capitalized on its passing as senior Colin Flynn scored in the seventh minute. With Juneau attacking inside the South penalty area, Sam Greely alertly passed back to fullback Joe Slagle at midfield. With South chasing the ball, Slagle sent a long ball back toward goal, where a wide-open Flynn headed a shot past South goalkeeper Greg Jones in the seventh minute.
"Once they got to this game ... they could do it on their own," JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. "In a lot of ways, I just sat back and watched. It was beautiful."
JDHS nearly scored twice late in the first half when Isaac Stark's rocket-shot hit the post and Smith missed an open net as time expired.
South, though, refused to roll over for Juneau and regrouped.
The Wolverines gradually reclaimed their rhythm in the second half, showing the form and fire that's made them Alaska's premier program since 2005.
The Wolverines started controlling possession, generating shots and daring Juneau's defense to make a mistake in the second half. JDHS goalkeeper Sam Post and the defense sealed off the goal, but South gained confidence with every attempted shot.
"They had a push and we knew they weren't going to give up," Flynn said.
Needing a change in momentum, a familiar face again provided the energy.
Juneau's catalyst all tournament long, Aaron Badilla, stepped up once again when his team needed him most.
On a counter attack, Juneau midfielder Ky Clark won a ball near the South goal and played it across to a streaking Badilla who gave Juneau a massive second goal in the 60th minute.
In all three games, Juneau's smallest player provided the biggest lift. Badilla scored the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 quarterfinal win Thursday over Colony and set up Juneau's first score in a 2-0 win over Dimond on Friday.
"He comes up big," JDHS senior Zach Farrington said. "He's quick and he's so small he can sneak past people. That's the cool part."
South pushed the action the final 20 minutes, but Juneau wasn't about to let this game slip away.
Not after two previous state title losses.
Not on this day.
"Coming down here, we had a great season, but this seals it," Flynn said. "To stand next to these guys, finally getting this, is incredible."
Juneau-Douglas 2, Dimond 0
Juneau's super sub, Aaron Badilla, ignited his team's offense as the Crimson Bears advanced to the state title game for a third consecutive year.
Badilla set up Colin Flynn's goal in the 57th minute to break a 0-0 tie. Nine minutes later, Dominic Smith headed in a rebound to down the Lynx.
"I try to come in and give as much energy as possible," Badilla said. "People have been playing for 15 or so minutes, so I come in and give my best and just run at them."
While Juneau struggled to crack Dimond's defense, Badilla used sheer energy to spark his team.
After winning a ball off a scramble, Badilla ran to the end line and crossed a pass over the head of Lynx goalkeeper Jase Hall. Juneau's Colin Flynn headed the ball into the open net to give JDHS a 1-0 lead.
"That kid works miracles," Juneau's Joe Slagle said of Badilla. "He's a little kid that just doesn't stop. I don't know how he does it.
Slagle provided some magic of his own early in the second half. After JDHS goalkeeper Sam Post left his net to challenge Dimond's Lucas Costa, Slagle sagged back to protect the empty net.
Costa dribbled past Post, but could not shoot past Slagle who alertly cleared the ball off the line.
"You have to give it to Dimond," Slagle said. "They really stepped up their game, but at the end we started getting on each other and talking and settled ourselves down."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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