Juneau-Douglas’ Ben Undurraga attempts a header against West Valley’s Jacob Luhrs (7), Ethan Raygor andVaughn Simpson, right, at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field on Friday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas’ Ben Undurraga attempts a header against West Valley’s Jacob Luhrs (7), Ethan Raygor andVaughn Simpson, right, at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field on Friday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Defending state champions headed to Juneau

Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer coach Gary Lehnhart stresses winning the energy battle each and every game.

If the number of aches afflicting his team is a benchmark for said battle, they’re crushing the competition.

In their second game of the weekend against West Valley on Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Field, sophomore keeper Mitchell McDonald injured his ribs before his replacement in net, Jaime Moreno, took a knee to the nose.

This sequence led up to Jacob Luhr’s game-winning goal in the 53rd minute off a free kick just outside the box.

Luhr’s goal closed scoring at 2-1.

“I knew exactly what they were going to do,” Lehnhart said. “The poor kid (Ben Campbell), he went in and they shot it and he wasn’t ready for it.”

West Valley’s first goal was delivered by Dayan Mitchell on a counter attack in the 26th minute.

“It just seems like we’re patching holes,” Lehnhart said of his team’s fate of late.

The team was already without Ben Undurraga, Brysen Mitchell and Ernie Ramos due to injuries.

Lehnhart can see West Valley contending for a state championship next month, just like their next opponent in defending state champion South Anchorage.

The Wolverines come to Juneau this week for games Thursday and Saturday in what will be the latest chapter in the storied Crimson Bears-Wolverines rivalry. Since 2000, when the Alaska Association of School Activities (ASAA) began sanctioning a state soccer championship, one or both of the schools have appeared in the championship game in all but two years: 2013 and 2014.

The Thursday game is at 5 p.m. and the Saturday game at 8:45 a.m. The visitors play Thunder Mountain on Friday at 4 p.m. at their home field.

South is 1-1 in the state championship the last two years after knocking off Kenai last year.

“There’s something special about South, there’s no doubt about it,” Lehnhart said.

The Crimson Bears are 2-2 in head-to-head matches with South Anchorage in the championship game. South won the first two in 2006 and 2007, but JDHS exacted revenge with wins in 2008 and 2011 over their northerly rival.

The Crimson Bears’ success at the state level has dropped noticeably in recent years.

Since a runner-up finish at the 2012 state championships, the highest JDHS has placed in the years since is 3rd (2015).

The group Lehnhart sends out on the field this week won’t be too shaken. After all, they were arguably the toughest test the Wolverines faced in their quest for championship number four.

Last year’s first round at the state championship tournament went down to penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie lasted all 30 minutes of overtime. The Wolverines won the penalty kick round 3-2.

Just like in Saturday’s game, Mosher was the lone scorer for the Crimson Bears.

“I’m looking forward to next week and then when we go up to Anchorage to play the other teams to see how they do,” Mosher said. “[West Valley] told me Dimond and Colony are supposed to pretty good this year.”

The boys road schedule next week mirrors that of the JDHS girls, with games against Service, Chugiak, Wasilla, and Dimond on April 26-29.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nolin.ainsworth@juneauempire.com.

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