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: 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 or 907-308-4891.

More in Sports

The author’s wife fights a steelhead while the author contemplates fly selection. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: The fear of missing fish

Student: “You know, FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out” Me: “I know… Continue reading

Astrophysicists Lindsay Glesener, left, and Sabrina Savage enjoy the sunshine on an observation deck at the Neil Davis Science Center on a hilltop at Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Waiting for the sun at Poker Flat

POKER FLAT RESEARCH RANGE — Under a bluebird sky and perched above… Continue reading

Maddy Fortunato, a Chickaloon middle school student, sets to attempt the one-hand reach by touching a suspended ball while remaining balanced on the other hand during the Traditional Games on Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Striving for the perfect balance of competition, camaraderie at seventh annual Traditional Games

More than 250 participants pursue personal goals while helping others during Indigenous events.

Purple mountain saxifrage blooms on cliffs along Perseverance Trail in early April. (Photo by Pam Bergeson)
On the Trails: Flowers and their visitors

Flowers influence their visitors in several ways. Visitors may be attracted by… Continue reading

Elias Lowell, 15, balances his way to the end of the pond during the annual Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday, the last day of what officials called and up-and-down season. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Up-and-down season at Eaglecrest ends on splashy note with Slush Cup

Ski area’s annual beach party features ice-filled water, snowy shores and showboating skimmers.

Aren Gunderson of the UA Museum of the North inspects the back paw of a Siberian tiger donated recently by officials of the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage after the tiger died at age 19. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Siberian tiger takes final rest at museum

It’s a safe bet that Aren Gunderson’s Toyota Tundra is the only… Continue reading

A rainbow connects with Kajson Cunningham (30) as he connects with the ball for Thunder Mountain High School during Tuesday’s game against Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé at JDHS, the opening match of the season for both teams. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
High school soccer season starts with a spectrum of goals and milestones

JDHS boys begin state title defense with 4-0 victory over TMHS, which is playing its final season.

Donovan Jackson, 12, of Juneau competes in the one-foot high kick during the 2022 Traditional Games on April 2, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire file photo)
Record number of participants expected for seventh annual Traditional Games

Teams from Alaska, Canada and Lower 48 to compete in 12 Indigenous skills events starting Friday.

Alwen Carrillo, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé, signs a letter of intent on Monday to play college basketball at Edmond College in Lynnwood, Washington. (Photo courtesy of Annie Lazo-Chappell)
Alwen Carrillo signs letter of intent to play basketball for Edmond College

All-state JDHS guard averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 assists during senior season.

Most Read