Crimson Bears boys play to exhaustion in dramatic state tourney nail-biter

Through two 40-minute halves, two 10-minute overtimes and two five-minute sudden death periods in 70-degree Anchorage heat, Juneau-Douglas High School held state soccer powerhouse South High School to a one-goal tie.

The game eventually came down to penalty kicks: five shots each to decide the winner. Both teams made their first shots, then JDHS keeper Hunter Pegues turned South’s Britton Clifford’s away with a big save to his left, giving JDHS the 2-1 lead after two shots.

South made their next and JDHS missed, tying the tally 2-2 after three shots each. South’s Adam Skelton nailed their next penalty to give the Wolverines the 3-2 lead after JDHS had their fourth shot blocked. Pegues gave his team a chance by saving the fourth kick, but South’s freshman keeper Juan Ponce de Leon came up huge by blocking JDHS’ final penalty kick to earn his team the win.

The boys had a tough time losing in such a close game.

“I think that was the championship right there,” JDHS junior JJ Moser said. “We were all just tired after the second overtime. I really like how we played, everyone did their best.”

“It was a horrible way to lose,” JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. “That would have been a great final, not that necessarily we belong in the final, but clearly they were the superior team in Anchorage and we took them to the bitter end. Both teams had chances, they probably more than us, but we had a strategy and played it, we had chances to win and it just didn’t happen.”

“The heat hurt us,” Lehnhart added. “We went through all our guys and everybody … played well, but we were definitely affected by the heat. I’m proud of the guys, … so many superior efforts. That was a great team they played: big and fast and talented. We stood right up to them.”

JDHS lost sophomore midfielder Ezra Geselle to injury and junior Ben Undurraga to cramping. Undurraga is one of JDHS’ penalty kickers, and couldn’t take a shot due to his absence from the field (rules dictate only those on the field at the end of the game can take penalty kicks).

South junior Talon Stanley, who scored his team’s only regulation-time goal on a penalty kick with nine minutes to go in the first half, felt the competition was incredibly difficult.

“It was wild. By the end everyone was just super tired and their touch was gone,” Stanley said. “JDHS has some incredible players: Oswaldo (Magallanes), Ben (Undurraga), they were just absolutely incredible. Everyone was just tired out on the field and trying to do their best.”

After Stanley’s penalty in the first half, JDHS’ Mosher quickly struck back right before halftime with a low shot from the outside of the 16-yard box. Scoring remained knotted at 1-1 the rest of the game.

Senior goalkeeper Hunter Pegues played a heroic game in net, showcasing skills that the rest of the state may not have been aware he had. With three minutes left in regulation, South laid a shot off on a free kick just outside JDHS’ box. It looked ticketed for the back of the net, but a fully-extended Pegues laid out to his right to turn the game-winner away and send the game to overtime.

“Hunter Pegues was outstanding,” Lehnhart said. “He doesn’t have very many chances to have to show that he’s a player and how good he is, so when he finally gets a chance in a game like this he showed that he’s a talented kid. He definitely kept us in the match.”

JDHS ended their season with a 12-3 record. 

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