The Moose are still 0-for-Juneau.
No. 3 Juneau-Douglas took a 20-0 lead and held off a gutsy Palmer rally, knocking off the Railbelt Conference rival Moose 29-13 Friday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Palmer has never won in the Capital City, and a late 29-yard field goal by first-year kicker Adam Soto and a 10-yard Jerick Ibias touchdown run with 46 seconds to play kept it that way.
After scoring 125 points in their first two games, things were shaping up for another Crimson Bear blow out when Juneau-Douglas took a 20-0 lead into the half.
But two Palmer touchdowns in less than a minute and a half near the end of the third quarter gave the Moose new life heading into the fourth.
The Crimson Bears then chewed up the clock with a 12-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in Soto’s big boot, pushing JDHS ahead 23-13 with 3:05 to play.
Ibias capped off another big day toting the rock for the Bears with his second touchdown run — set up by a Demetrius Campos interception return to midfield — to finalize the scoring.
Ibias rushed for 136 yards and two scores on 21 carries, aided by a superb effort from the JDHS offensive line.
“It’s all about communication out there,” senior lineman Warren Eckland said. “If one person doesn’t know what they’re doing, it falls apart. It’s really a big group effort.”
JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos said the line “really came into its own.”
“They were talking and communicating, telling me what holes they thought would work,” he said. “People don’t really realize how many new kids we have out there, but they’re good. They’re talented kids and it just takes time to put all that together.”
Junior quarterback Phillip Fenumiai finished 9-for-17 passing with 285 yards and two touchdowns, mostly standing in the pocket with as much time as he needed to find a receiver. The Bears’ First Team All-State signal caller also rushed 13 times for 41 yards.
And Campos provided more than just a key interception, racking up 144 yards receiving, including a school record 95-yard touchdown catch on a hitch-and-go in the first quarter. Campos’ catch bested Ernest Monts’ 87-yard reception record set against Kenai in 2002.
Junior tight end Gary Speck also contributed a 67-yard catch-and-run score in the second quarter.
It wasn’t the big blowout of the first two weeks but it was a true team effort against a game opponent, making the Bears’ head coach a very happy man.
“I’m buying a ton of pizza tonight,” Sjoroos yelled into the post-game huddle as the team erupted in celebration.
Sjoroos said afterward the Bears were able to take advantage of some big plays on both offense and defense, stopping Palmer twice inside the JDHS 10-yard line in the first quarter.
“We bent on defense but didn’t break,” he said. “And then we turned both of those into scores, which is really unheard of in high school football. That pass play was a school record and shattered the old mark. You can’t get much further back than that. That was a great play and a great call from Phil Isaak, our offensive coordinator.
“It was a great start and then to weather the storm — we knew they were going to come back, just like they did last week in Soldotna.”
Palmer coach Rod Christiansen said he also knew his team had a chance to get back into the game.
“It’s a long plane ride home but (the comeback) helps. We knew we had it in us. We were just a little short in the first half and gave up some big plays, and then we didn’t finish on offense,” he said. “It could have been 14-14 at the half, and we told (the team) that. We believed in ourselves that we could still get it done and I’m proud of them.
“They came out and it got real quiet over there (on the JDHS side), and we did what we were supposed to do.”
The Crimson Bears got on the board with a nine-play, 50-yard drive on their first possession.
The play of the drive came on third-and-14 after Fenumiai had just been dropped for a loss. Fenumiai took the snap deep in the shotgun and zipped a pass to Sean Niumataevalu, who went up in the air to make a tough catch for a 25-yard gain down to the Palmer 6-yard line.
Ibias then ran in off tackle for a 6-0 lead after the missed extra point.
The Bears’ defense then held the Moose on a goal-line stand after quarterback Jackson Buresh’s pass on fourth-and-goal fell incomplete.
On third-and-7 from the JDHS 5-yard line, Fenumiai lofted a pass into the air just over the finger tips of the diving defensive back. Campos stopped short to make the catch before racing about 60 yards down the sideline for the 95-yard touchdown reception and a 13-0 Bears lead.
The JDHS defense once again held its ground when it mattered most, with Samson Nauer breaking up a fourth-and-6 pass from the 8-yard line in the end zone.
On first-and-10 from the Bears’ own 33-yard line, Fenumiai hit tight end Gary Speck in stride over the middle, and Speck took off for the end zone and a 20-0 JDHS lead after the Soto PAT.
Palmer scored the first touchdown on the Bears’ defense all season after a 12-play, 68-yard drive late in the third quarter.
The Moose ripped off runs of 16, 10 and 17 yards, with Buresh eventually getting into the end zone from two yards out.
An interception by Jared Straight set the Moose up at the Bears’ 20-yard line, and Buresh hit Steven Lee for a 20-yard touchdown pass two plays later to cut the JDHS lead to 7, 20-13, with 1:27 to play in the third quarter.
Ian Ahrens carried 17 times for 61 yards for Palmer, and Buresh finished 6 of 14 for 90 yards and one touchdown pass.
JDHS improved to 3-0 with Colony visiting Juneau on Friday. Palmer fell to 1-2.
JV Bears top Moose 32-19
Dorian Isaak continued to orchestrate the JDHS junior varsity offense en route to four scoring drives, rushing for two scores and throwing for another as the Bears topped the Moose 32-19.
Isaak also connected with Trey Williams for a 35-yard score as time expired in the first half. Williams now has seven touchdowns through four games.
George Sua got in on the scoring action with a 65-yard rushing touchdown in place of Williams, who joined the varsity at halftime. Finally, it was foreign-exchange student Pawel Kierski stealing the spotlight with several big hits and a kick return for a touchdown in his first-ever “American football game.”
“First and foremost, coach (Matt) Lehrbach and coach (Eric) Sele are doing wonders with the offensive line,” JV head coach Angelo Katasse said. “We are 3-0 on paper but I promise you, Colony will not be fazed. The Colony game is going to come down to which team controls the ball and stays disciplined late into the game.”
Katasse is still searching for his first win against the Knights.
How they scored
JDHS — Ibias 6 run (kick failed)
JDHS — Campos 95 pass from Fenumiai (Soto kick)
JDHS — Speck 67 pass from Fenumiai (Soto kick)
PHS — Buresh 2 run (kick failed)
PHS — Lee 20 pass from Buresh (Wisner kick)
JDHS — FG Soto 29
JDHS — Ibias 10 run (kick failed)