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Quite a trip: Jeremy Johnson’s Colony soccer longevity lives on at this week’s state tournament

by | May 22, 2024 | Cover Story, Prep Spotlight, Soccer

Colony coach Jeremy Johnson is closing in on 500 career wins. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

For most of Jeremy Johnson’s adult life, he’s spent portions of spring days making the 80-mile-plus round trip from Anchorage to his hometown of Palmer.

“Cars are made for those drives,” said Johnson, 50. “I grew up in the Valley, and you don’t even think about the to and from. It’s just been part of what I’ve always had to do.”

Johnson can say the same about coaching soccer at Colony High. He became the boys coach in early 1995 shortly after turning 21. He added the responsibility as the Knights’ girls coach in 2017. Over all that time and miles driven, he’s led the Colony boys to 401 match victories and four Division I state titles, including last season’s. The girls squad has amassed 80 wins under Johnson.

On May 13, Johnson secured DI boys win No. 400 when Colony beat the East T-birds 3-1 at home. Both the boys and girls teams are in the field for the 24th First National Bank Alaska/Alaska School Activities Association DI state tournament. Johnson led the Knights to the inaugural boys title back in 2000 when Soldotna’s Skyview High was still a thing.

This week’s championship event, which also includes the DII tournament for schools with a student enrollment of 850 or fewer, returns to the Valley for the first time in 20 years. Wasilla hosted from 2002-2004. Matches Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be played at Wasilla, Colony and Palmer.

The Colony boys (15-2-2) begin their title defense on home turf against Chugiak (7-7-0) on Thursday at 5 p.m. The girls (10-6-2) open versus Service (9-4-0) also at home Thursday, 3 p.m.

“Not having to take the bus or get to school hours earlier, we’ll take those little comforts of being at home,” said Johnson, a 1992 Palmer graduate. “You’re always going to feel more comfortable at your place. Who doesn’t want home matches?”

When Johnson first took over the Knights’ boys program, Rednex’s “Cotton Eye Joe” was all the rage for some reason. He’d only been out of high school for a few years and it was imperative boundaries were drawn.

“I insisted on everyone calling me Coach to keep that divide,” said Johnson, who was coaching seniors who were freshmen his final year at Palmer. “Back then, I would jump in and out of drills trying to establish that I was better than you.”

For the better part of a decade, Johnson’s been fortunate to work around soccer nearly full time, year around. Once the former equipment manager for the old Anchorage Aces, he’s today the Anchorage Youth Soccer Club’s technical director.

“Don’t know if I ever envisioned how it would be, but I wanted to see if I could make soccer work,” Johnson.

In his 30 seasons, he’s loved watching kids get more tuned into the game.

“The way I look at it, they’re just kids, and are going to say stupid things just like we did,” Johnson said. “But soccer players have become so much more advanced with the advent of The Dome and more turf fields.

“There’s so much access to professional soccer as well, they’re all so much tactically aware of how the game works. It’s not just kick it and run.”

For Alaska high school soccer, Johnson’s longevity is only matched by Juneau-Douglas coach Gary Lehnhart, who’s also been on the pitch seemingly forever. Lehnhart’s Crimson Bear squads won five DI (single classification) crowns before DII inexplicably came along in 2018.

Back when Johnson secured his 100th boys match, only Lehnhart and Chugiak legend Ed Blahous matched him at double digits. Today, he’s just proud of what his players accomplished and thankful for mentors like his mother Sandi as well as coaches Rich Livingston and Danny Reynolds.

“This is just something I always wanted to do,” Johnson said.


* Between the 16 DI boys and girls teams at state, they’ve combined to claim 38 of 46 championships. On the boys side, South (Anchorage) leads the way with eight (2022, 2017, 2016, 2013, 2009, 2007, 2006 and 2005. These Wolverines sport a 14-0-1 mark and earned the tournament’s top seed. The South girls (14-0-0) grabbed the top seed, but it’s Dimond (11-2-0) that owns the most state titles with nine (2022, 2021, 2019, 2017, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2006, 2002).

* The DI tournament really begs the question, why does ASAA have multiple soccer classifications? Of the 12 DI schools, eight are represented in the boys and girls brackets. Take the DI dozen and add in the 17 DII schools, and it sure seems like ruling a 29-program, single-championship roost would pack far more historic weight.

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