ANCHORAGE - The Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team scored in the first half, but the second half, and ultimately the state championship, belonged to South Anchorage High School.
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The Wolverines scored twice after halftime to win 2-1 and claim their third-straight Alaska School Activities Association State Soccer Tournament championship. The Wolverines are the first team to win three consecutive state titles.
"It feels good," said South Anchorage's Andres Tabares, who scored the game-winning goal. "We had a chance to make history, and we did it."
Juneau-Douglas led 1-0 at halftime, but the Wolverines controlled the majority of the second half.
Andrew Campbell tied the score eight minutes into the second half when he headed a loose ball for a goal.
"A lot of people had to step up," Campbell said.
Tabares netted the game-winner in the 64th minute with a beautiful arcing shot over the defense. The goal fired up the Anchorage faithful and proved too big of a deficit for JDHS to overcome.
Juneau-Douglas tried hard to net the equalizer, but South's strong midfield and solid fullbacks refused to bend.
"I can't fault their effort, it's just the score wasn't right," JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said with a smile.
Lehnhart believed his team started slowly in the first half, but his team scored first in the 31st minute. Senior Andrew Flansaas scored off Colin Flynn's perfect pass. Flynn played a short corner pass from Isaac Stark, beat one defender then played a quick pass to Flansaas.
In the second half, Flynn tried all he could to create a second goal for his team.
"They played with class and composure," Lehnhart said. "I though Colin Flynn willed us in that match when we weren't doing well."
JDHS missed several golden opportunities to take a 2-0 first-half lead. The Bears hit the crossbar twice, missed two open nets over the goal and had one goal called back due to an offside call.
Those squandered chances opened the door for South.
"I think where we blew it was after we went up 1-0, we had a couple really good looks, and we shot the ball over the top," Lehnhart said. "That's been a little bit of our problem all year long. We haven't finished some of the ones that were set for us."
More pictures of the Crimson Bears can be seen at spotted.juneauempire.com.
During South's strong second half, Juneau-Douglas' fullbacks did everything they could to hold the line.
Juneau fullback Alex Schirmer was named player of the game for his efforts, while central fullback Carlo Ebron battled South's bigger midfielders and fullbacks admirably. Juneau's third fullback, Zach Farrington, was a constant danger on free kicks and with his long throw-ins.
"Our back three has great chemistry," Ebron said. "I have to give a lot of credit to Alex Schirmer. I've been playing with him for the last seven years. He makes me look good."
Lehnhart said, "(Ebron) was a great leader out there today and he leads by example."
Seniors Nils Domke, Alex Robinson, Cary Kelly, Ebron, Flansaas and Schirmer all ended their JDHS soccer careers by playing in three state finals.
The future does appear bright for the Bears, though, as playmakers Tuavao Maake, Flynn, Farrington, Dominic Smith and a host of others will return next year.
"We're not rebuilding." Lehnhart said. "We're reloading. We'd like to get back here and finish the job."
At halftime, two streakers clad in nothing but black paint sprinted on to the field. The crowd roared in laughter, then groaned in discomfort, as the two naked men climbed the fence to make their escape.
Flynn, Smith and Farrington all made the All-Tournament team.
JDHS has played in seven of the last eight state finals, winning it all in 2003.
Juneau-Douglas 2, West Anchorage 1, OT
Zach Farrington's powerful arms and Dominic Smith's head led to a thrilling double overtime victory over West Anchorage High School on Friday in the semifinal round.
In the 104th minute of play, Farrington fired one of his trademark long throw-ins toward the goal. Smith managed to get just the top of his head on the ball, redirecting it enough to score and spark an emotional celebration at midfield.
It was the second-straight time the Bears' ended West's season in double overtime in the state semifinals.
"We just try our hardest every time," Farrington said. "Whether it goes in or not, it's always pressuring the defense and making them clear the ball out of the zone. And they can fumble it around and we can get lucky. And on this last one, it went right to Dominic's head, and he flicked it in."
Juneau-Douglas controlled play throughout both overtime periods, but failed to find the net.
In fact, Smith missed a wide-open net moments prior to his clutch header.
"I was kind of frustrated," Smith said of his missed shot. "I usually make those shots. But my coach says if I miss those shots, go back and try again."
Smith put JDHS up in the 10th minute with his right-footed rocket.
After his goal, however, West took control.
The Eagles used their size and height advantage to win seemingly every ball in the air throughout regulation.
West's hard work culminated in the 55th minute. The Eagles' Will Estes powered a rebound past JDHS goalkeeper Sam Post for the equalizing tally.
"It was definitely intimidating, especially how we lost to them earlier," Farrington said. "They play really well in the air. They won a lot of headers."
The Eagles appeared poised to score the game-winning goal, but Sam Post made a number of key saves to keep the score level.
In the final moments of regulation, however, JDHS started to regain control.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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