Maybe the Falcons should consider wearing pink more often.
Thunder Mountain picked up its first win of the season Friday night, pulling away in the second half for a 48-21 Southeast Conference victory over the Ketchikan Kings in Juneau.
TMHS sported new uniforms with pink numbers, lettering and socks to help raise awareness for breast cancer during the first-ever Falcons Care Night. All gate proceeds and money raised was donated to the Cancer Connection, benefitting those in need in Southeast who are battling cancer.
The injury-depleted Falcons put up a season-high 48 points while suiting up just 15 players, and though far from a perfect performance, the win keeps Thunder Mountain’s playoff hopes alive with a 1-1 conference record (1-4 overall).
Coach Bill Byouer said while it was nice to get the team’s first win of the season, the Falcons are not close to where they need to be, and must continue to build and prepare for next week’s rematch against Sitka at TMHS. Three first-half turnovers and five total fumbles showed that Thunder Mountain still has a lot of room for improvement.
“It feels good but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Byouer said. “They don’t quit. We keep making dumb mistakes, but we never quit.”
The Falcons got on the scoreboard first late in the first quarter when Chris Mack blocked a Ketchikan punt from its own goal line, with Paul Strickler recovering the ball in the end zone. TMHS took an 8-0 lead after Ben Jahn took the option pitch and ran in for the successful two-point conversion.
After holding the Kings to three-and-out to force a punt, the Falcons got the ball back in Ketchikan territory, and it didn’t take long for them to find the end zone again. On the second play of the drive and first of the second quarter, junior running back John Jolly found pay dirt on a 36-yard touchdown scamper, putting the Falcons up 14-0 after the point after missed.
The Kings answered back on their next offensive play as senior quarterback Luke Purschwitz took the snap and sprinted down the right sideline for a 62-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit in half at 14-7 after a successful Jens Christianson point after.
Fumbles were a theme for both teams as the two squads combined for 11 total on the night. A botched snap by the Falcons on their next possession, recovered by Ketchikan’s Craig Jackson, gave the Kings the ball on their own 37-yard line.
Purschwitz completed his only pass of the night two plays later, a long 53-yard reception down the left sideline to receiver Sanford Ohlson, to the Falcons’ 1-yard line. On the next play, Purshwitz punched it in to knot the score at 14-all after another successful extra point.
The score remained deadlocked at 14 going into the half. The Ketchikan offense consisted of a heavy dose of Purschwitz, who carried the ball 21 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone.
The Falcons did a much better job containing Purschwitz the second half, limiting him to just 36 yards on eight more carries, also forcing him to fumble twice. Aside from a 73-yard kick return for a score, Purschwitz was otherwise shut down by the TMHS defense.
It was all Falcons in the second half as the offense marched downfield on its first possession on a five-play, 58-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Camden Thomas connected with Sam Jahn on a 26-yard touchdown strike to give TMHS back the lead, 22-14 after a two-point conversion run by Thomas.
Byouer pointed to the team’s second-half success as coming from crisp execution.
“The second half, we turned it around,” he said. We didn’t let the ball go, we caught the pass, everything just started to work for us for the first time this whole year.”
One play after a Purschwitz fumble that gave the ball back to the Falcons near midfield, Thomas found Joe Ia on a slant pass and Ia took it the rest of the way for a 53-yard touchdown reception, giving the Falcons a 28-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
Another Ketchikan fumble halted the Kings’ next drive, giving the Falcons the ball at their own 31-yard line. TMHS wasted little time working its way downfield, and Thomas capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run, extending the Falcons’ lead to 34-14 late in the third quarter.
But Purschwitz took the ensuing kick return off a bounce 73-yards for his third touchdown of the game, giving the Kings new life, trailing 34-21 after three quarters of play.
Thomas, normally strictly a pocket passer, showed himself to be a dual threat, scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 15-yard scramble, extending the lead to 40-21 midway through the fourth quarter.
Thomas finished with 96 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 10 attempts, while completing 7 of 14 passes for 137 yards and two more scores through the air.
Jolly capped the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes remaining, and a completed pass to Ben Jahn for the two-point conversion was the cherry on top.
Jolly carried 10 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
“We just came together as a team,” Jolly said. “Usually in the second half, we start losing it. But we intensified and we just kept at it. We finally fixed some of the mistakes that we’ve been making and when everything comes together, we get results.”
The Falcons host the Sitka Wolves at 8 p.m. Friday in another conference clash. Because of point differential, TMHS must defeat the Wolves by at least 19 points to have a shot at the conference title.
How they scored
TMHS — Stricker recovered blocked punt in end zone (B. Jahn run)
TMHS — Jolly 36 run (kick failed)
KHS — Purschwitz 62 run (Christianson kick)
KHS — Purschiwtz 1 run (Christianson kick)
TMHS — S. Jahn 26 pass from (Thomas run)
TMHS — Ia 53 pass from Thomas (conversion failed)
TMHS — Thomas 12 run (conversion failed)
KHS — Purschwitz 73 kick return (Christainson kick)
TMHS — Thomas 15 run (conversion failed)
TMHS — Jolly 15 run (B. Jahn pass from Thomas)