“This was our ‘Miracle On Ice’ game,” Juneau-Douglas High School football coach Rich Sjoroos said of the Crimson Bears 21-20 win at Colony on Friday night. “It was a classic football game by both teams.”
Sjoroos was referring to the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey victory over the Soviet Union in a semi-final game at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“You could see it in our kids eyes before the game.,” Sjoroos said. “They wanted to win this one. They stated they wanted to win this game for Phillip and for coach Al.”
Senior quarterback Phillip Fenumiai, originally thought to be out with a minor knee strain, instead had season-ending knee surgery in Seattle on Wednesday and will remain there until next week. His father, defensive coordinator Al Fenumiai also remained in Seattle.
The win, however, looked doubtful.
Trailing 20-14 with just three minutes remaining, the 20-player strong Crimson Bears looked to be headed to their second defeat in a row at the hands of the 60-player Colony Knights.
Sophomore quarterback Dorian Isaak had just thrown from JD territory and hit senior receiver Brian Brassfield who took the ball inside the 15-yard line.
At second and goal at the two the Crimson Bears were stopped. At third and goal at the one they were stopped again on an isolation power bootleg. Fourth and goal at the one with just under four minutes remaining and the Crimson Bears were stopped.
The Colony Knight took over at their own 1-yard line and would try to run the clock out. Instead the Crimson Bears forced a fourth down and 2-yard situation. The Knights punt and JDHS gets the ball at the 42-yard line.
Isaak quickly hits senior Aquino Brinson over the middle for a first and goal at the four. Senior Billy Palmer crashed through the Knight defensive line for the tying touchdown and senior Jackson LehnHart added his third extra point to take the lead.
Isaak was 5-15 passing for 103 yards in the game. Palmer had 30 carries for 118-yards and two touchdown.
“We were on top of the world,” Sjoroos said. “Nobody expected the win, especially after how we played last week, and with the injuries.”
The Crimson Bears scored first in the game. Lehnhart’s opening kick off pinned the Knights deep in their own territory, where a botched snap gave the ball to JDHS at the 1-yard line with just 45 seconds ticked off the clock.
Junior Demetrius Campos ran the ball in for the games first points and Lehnhart added the extra point kick. Campos, who ran for 47 yards on 12 carries with 1 touchdown, would have to sit out the second half of the game with a hamstring pull.
Colony answered back with roughly two minutes remaining in the quarter. The Knights went for a trick play and JD’s Brinson made a key tackle to keep the lead 7-6.
With a minute to go in the first half the Knights got another touchdown to take a 13-7 halftime lead.
The two teams gave no ground in the third quarter as defenses stepped up to slow momentum.
Early in the fourth quarter JD’s Palmer scored from 11-yards out to tie the game and Lehnhart booted his second PAT for the Crimson Bears 14-13 lead. The field position was set up by a string of passes from Isaak to Brassfield, Brinson and junior Kris Hill. Brinson caught 2 passes in the game for 47 yards, Brassfield 1-37, and Hill 2-19.
With roughly five minutes remaining in the game the Crimson Bears were picked off at their own 35-yard line. On the next play Colony threw a bomb down the sideline to their star receiver Antonio Bush to take a 20-14 lead with the extra point. That lead would fall and when JDHS scored in the final minutes, their defense held the Knights for four straight plays to secure the win.
“In my 20 years of coaching that was probably one of the most complete team efforts,” Sjoroos said. “From every person, whether they were in the game or on the sidelines, the team managers, the parents there, everybody. Fortunately we came out with the victory.”
At the 1980 Olympics, the U.S. men’s hockey team followed their Miracle On Ice with a Gold Medal win over Finland. That team was filled with amateurs and college players and they battled against the professional players from Russia and Finland.
The Colony Knights roster features no players who go both ways, that is, who play offense and defense. The Crimson Bears all do.
JDHS as with any team in southeast Alaska, playing with reduced numbers against schools of larger size, relish the underdog montra as they strive for state contention.
“It was such a perseverance for those kids tonight,” Sjoroos said. “They talked all week about playing for coach Al and playing for Phillip. That was what they were doing out there. It was so obvious by the way they stuck together, no negativity, just keep grinding.”
Coach Sjoroos stated that the impact the Fenumiai family has had on the sports climate in Alaska has been undeniable. Opposing football coaches and players have called Sjoroos to express their best wishes to the family.
“This is really hard right now,” Sjoroos said. “They (Fenumiai’s) are a sports family. Their impact on any team they have been on, whether it is softball or football, those kids have been tremendous athletes and their parents have been assets to the programs and community. The kids really saw what they were feeling and used that for motivation to carry them through the game.”
How They Scored
11:45 - JDHS, Campos 1 run (Lehnhart kick) JDHS 7 - CHS 0
1:30 - Colony Knights, (conversion fails) JDHS 7 - CHS 6
1:30 - Colony Knights, (kick good) JDHS 7 - CHS 13
10:32 - JDHS, Palmer 11 run (Lehnhart kick) JDHS 14 - CHS 13
5:40 - CHS, Bush 65 pass (kick good) JDHS 14 - CHS 20
1:19 - JDHS, Palmer 4 run (Lehnhart kick) 21 - CHS 20