The visiting Kenai Central boys soccer team won a battle of Division II powerhouses, taking down Juneau-Douglas 1-0 on Thursday to improve to 4-1.
The Crimson Bears and Kardinals are expected to be two of the main challengers for the Division II, or small-schools, title.
Soccer was split into two divisions this season, but even under the old format, where all the schools played for one prize, Juneau was able to capture five state titles. Kenai, meanwhile, tied for third at state last season after finishing second the year before.
The same two teams met in the state quarterfinals last season, with the Kardinals also notching a 1-0 victory at that time.
“I’m happy with the determination the guys are showing in closing out close games,” said Kenai Central coach Joel Reemtsma, whose team scored a last-minute goal to beat Soldotna, also a challenger for the Division II state title, Tuesday. “That’s important.”
The coach said Juneau had more possession and chances in the first half, but 15 minutes into the half, Zack Tuttle got the ball and carried it to the end line before crossing to Damien Redder for the goal.
“When teams attack us, they have to leave space in behind, and once they do that, we have ways of exploiting that,” Reemtsma said.
Braedon Pitsch, with help from a stout Kenai defense, kept a clean sheet the rest of the match.
Reemtsma said Rykker Riddall had a monster game at defense, while Luke Beiser, Braydon Goodman and Titus Riddall also held the fort.
“Rykker Riddall saved one off the back line,” Reemtsma said. “It was going in and a falling-back, over-the-head clearance saved the goal.”
The victory day finished off a special day for the Kardinals. Earlier in the day, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, introduced the team on the Senate floor.