On a field surrounded by snow, Juneau-Douglas High School senior Marlena Romanoff put the game on ice.
With four minutes to play Friday night, the Crimson Bears hung onto a one-goal lead over Thunder Mountain High School. Streaking up the middle of the field, Romanoff said she saw an opening and took it. She popped the ball over TMHS goalie Karson Sutak’s head and watched it bounce into the net.
The goal put JDHS up by two in the 77th minute, and another late goal pushed the tally to 5-2, which was the final score.
The Crimson Bears started slowly, entering halftime down 1-0 and playing a bit hesitantly, Romanoff said. That changed quickly, as JDHS took the lead with goals from junior Malia Miller and Eva Goering in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“We weren’t nervous, but it seemed like we were playing kind of scared,” Romanoff said, “but we got our confidence back.”
Though they were adversaries Friday, the two teams worked together Thursday. With heavy snowfall this week, the field at TMHS was covered with hard snow with just 24 hours until kickoff. TMHS head coach John Newell said his players had been shoveling off part of the field for practice, and then JDHS players and parents spent three hours Thursday night clearing the field.
They got the job done, and a wall of shoveled snow surrounded the field Friday night. JDHS players and head coach Matt Dusenberry were standing atop the mounds of snow instead of sitting on the bench. Dusenberry said they didn’t want this first game to be delayed.
“We wanted to play,” Dusenberry said. “We’ve been stuck in gyms for a while here.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the net for the first 36 minutes until Falcon sophomore Keana Villanueva scored off a pass from senior Sienna Hanna. Immediately after the goal, Dusenberry implored his players to start playing with more awareness.
The beginning of the second half marked a turning point, Newell said. TMHS senior Azure Briggs cramped up and had to come out of the game.
“Azure is our senior varsity captain of the team,” Newell said. “She’s our center midfielder and really everything runs through her, so as soon as she cramped up and had to come out, the game changed.”
JDHS struck quickly. Miller’s goal came five minutes into the half and Goering scored six minutes later to take the lead. Junior Michaela Bentley assisted on both goals. Sophomore Asianna Mazon padded the JDHS lead in the 57th minute, scoring on a rebound after a Sutak save.
The Crimson Bears attacked for much of the half, but TMHS wasn’t done. With 10 minutes left in the game, senior Cierra McCain scored to cut the lead in half. Newell said he was pleased with his team’s effort, especially with Briggs and a couple other players fighting cramps in the second half.
Romanoff’s goal, which she said was her first varsity score, gave the Bears some breathing room and junior Nikki Box scored two minutes later for the game’s final score. Miller assisted on the final goal.
Dusenberry said his players were more disciplined in the second half after having an issue with momentum-killing offsides penalties in the first half.
Romanoff said Dusenberry gave them a halftime pep talk that helped her and her teammates remember how well they had been playing in practice. She said they were a bit nervous after the sluggish first half, but relaxed and worked together better after halftime.
“Everyone’s pretty strong on their own,” Romanoff said, “and then we all come together with a really positive attitude and really build each other up.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.