Members of the TMHS boys soccer team celebrate winning the school’s first-ever, state-wide soccer championship besting Soldotna in a hard-fought 3-2 victory on May 29, 2021. (Courtesy Photo/Tim Lewis)

TMHS boys soccer brings home state championship

JDHS came in third

After a season like no other, the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons boys soccer team brought home the school’s first-ever, statewide soccer championship besting Soldotna in a hard-fought 3-2 victory. Across town, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boys team nabbed the third-place finish.

“We played an excellent game, and we came to play,” said TMHS soccer coach Tim Lewis. “The kids were ready, they were focused, and they went out and got it.”

Lewis credited the winning season to grit, years of preparation through club soccer and middle school and teamwork.

“While most of the kids are not known across Alaska, we fielded a solid starting 11 from front to back, left to right that could overwhelm opposing teams,” he said. “It was really a full team that works together. That’s why we ended up with the championship,” Lewis said.

High school boys soccer returns

Intense play created four All-State Tournament players for TMHS, including seniors Logan Miller and Gavin Gende and juniors Wallace Adams and Talon Briggs, Lewis said.

Lewis said he was proud of the team but that he couldn’t take all the credit for coaching them to victory.

“A lot of coaches worked with the boys over the years. I just happened to be the head coach this year,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see these guys go from kids to young men and see hard work rewarded.”

Challenges abound

The team experienced a tough season leading up to the championship tournament and while playing in it.

During the tournament’s opener, an injury took junior Phillip Lam out of commission for half of the game. In the same game, senior Elias West suffered a season-ending injury that could have derailed the team emotionally and competitively.

JDHS girls soccer clinches state title

“It was tough to see him go down. He’s been a starter in the same position for several years. We had to do some adjusting and moved some players around,” Lewis said, adding that he asked West who he’d like to cover his position.

West suggested his friend and long-time teammate Lucas Erickson take his place on the pitch.

“That created an emotional boost to his play,” Lewis said, adding that West joined the team via FaceTime for pre-game chats and cheers, to boost morale.

Before the championship, the team battled COVID quarantines, Zoom-based practices, canceled trips, player absences, player injuries, and a pre-season coaching swap.

“I’ll call it a whirlwind year,” Lewis said. “You had no idea what would happen week-to-week. The kids did whatever it took to still have their season.”

Lewis expects to be a contender in next year’s tournament, thanks to a large class of rising seniors.

“I know the kids are driven, he said.

Trophy serves as a metaphor

On the way home from Anchorage, the player figurine atop the state championship trophy suffered a slight injury that resulted in a broken ankle. Lewis said that was the perfect ending to the unusual season.

“It builds into the narrative of the injuries we faced at state and before,” Lewis said. “It’s a visual reminder of what it takes to persevere and stand up when others fall down. We will let it be displayed that way as part of the narrative of our program.”

JDHS finishes third

Across town, JDHS soccer coach Gary Lehnhart offered his congratulations to his team’s key rival.

“Congratulations to them. They had a great season,” Lehnhart said.

Lehnhart said that the Crimson Bears got better each week of the season, even if they didn’t get a shot at the state championship.

“We felt like we were getting better as the season went on,” he said.

JDHS beat North Pole High School 2-0 in the first round of play and then lost to second-place Soldotna 3-1 in the semi-finals before beating Kenai 3-0 in the consolation round.

Lehnhat said the team was disappointed to lose to Soldotna. “We made a mistake and didn’t put them away. Then they started with pressure. We had a chance and missed them,” he said.

Lehnhart said that the team’s last game was the best of the season across the board.

“It’s good to go out with a dominating performance. To see the growth and the team and see all these young players. I was really pleased with what they accomplished,” he added.

The Crimson Bears won the Team Academic Award for highest GPA and the Sportsmanship Award.

“Those awards speak highly of the kids and how the team conducts itself,” he said. “I like winning those awards.”

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

More in Sports

Wendy Vuille poses with skater Brendyn Hatfield at the Arizona Adult Skating Camp. (Courtesy Photo / Wendy Vuille)
Better skate than never: Over a decade of hard work nets Juneau woman rare honor

Over a decade of hard work nets Juneau woman rare honor

A total of 145 boys from 10 Southeast Alaska high schools dash out from the starting line at the Capital City Invite at A Káx Yaa Andagan Yé (Sandy Beach) on Saturday morning. The 5K race for boys’ and girls’ teams was the region’s largest cross-country race of the season, and final regular season competition before the regional championship in Sitka this weekend. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Many merry after massive muddy meet

Juneau’s cross-country runners and coaches in sunny spirits about chances going into championships

TMHS’ Ashlyn Gates and JDHS’ Mila Hargrave both reach for the ball during the second set of a cross-town volleyball match held at JDHS on Friday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
TMHS wins two cross-town matches

TMHS wins two cross-town matches

A Lucas White (21) block buys Jarrell Williams (1) more room to work during a 49-32 win against Service High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau cooks up a conference title

Huskies are back-to-back Cook Inlet Conference champs after lopsided win.

Senior Moana Tuviafale of Thunder Mountain High School (far right) was named to the all-tournament team at this year’s Spiktacular tournament this weekend at West Anchorage High School. From left to right, other players in photo are Hayden Inman of Chugiak High School, Liyah Pilgrim of Colony High School and Marija Wunnicke of South High School. (Courtesy Photo / Julie Herman)
TMHS takes 3rd at Spiketacular tournament

The Falcons are ranked 3rd in the state

Jarrell Williams, who scored five TDs against South Anchorage to help Juneau maintain an undefeated record, looks over the line of scrimmage in an Aug. 27 game against West Anchorage High School. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
5 TD’s power Juneau’s 6th win

Juneau football still undefeated on the season.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
From left to right, Liz Perry, president and CEO of Travel Juneau; SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium project manager Sierra Gadaire; High Cadence Triathlon team coach Jamie Bursell; and City and Borough of Juneau Finance Director Jeff Rogers met at Juneau Moose Family Center on Thursday afternoon to share a recap of the Ironman Alaska to a full crowd of members of the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce who joined in at the luncheon.
2023 vision: Officials look at the future of Ironman Alaska

They reviewed what went well and what could change for next time.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Two-time national champion and Olympic bronze medalist Gracie Gold talks with the Juneau Empire ahead of her upcoming free speech at Juneau-Douglas High School on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.
Olympian takes time to talk mental health

Bronze medalist, 2-time champ to speak Saturday.

Jarrell Williams (1) and Thomas Baxter (84) celebrate a big play on defense early in Juneau's win over the visiting West Valley Rams. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Huskies get the Rams’ goat under Friday night lights

Juneau remains undefeated on the season.

FILE - Lance Mackey sits with his lead dogs Larry, right, and Maple after crossing the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on March 18, 2009, in Nome, Alaska, to win his third Iditarod in a row. Mackey, a four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race winner and one of mushing’s most colorful and accomplished champions who also suffered from health and drug issues, died Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, his father and kennel announced on Facebook. He was 52. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
Cancer claims 4-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey

Officials with the world’s most famous sled dog race said Iditarod Nation was in mourning.