The Thunder Mountain High School football team wrapped up the Southeast Conference title with a 37-14 win over the visiting Sitka Wolves on Saturday at TMHS Field.
Sitka was the only team with a chance to challenge for the SE crown but had to win by 29 points. The Wolves could manage only half of that as the Falcons withstood the straight ahead rushing game of their conference foes.
“Ray ((Bradley) has done a great job these last few weeks really trying to shore up the defense,” Falcons offensive coordinator Brandon Mahle said. “Especially the interior. We have given up a lot of yards the last two weeks up the middle. It really paid dividends this week, and it showed, with the way Ray has cleaned up the inside. They just couldn’t move the ball on us up the middle.”
Mahle, filling in for head coach Bill Byouer who was attending a family wedding, kept the Falcons in their option offense.
“We ran quite a bit more,” Mahle said. “We have simplified our offense the last couple weeks and the kids have gotten really comfortable and confident with it.”
The Falcons utilized misdirection plays and their athleticism to disrupt the line of scrimmage.
The biggest change of the night was the starting quarterback position.
Junior Ben Jahn has been inserted as the signal caller and Villi Tupou has moved to running back.
The position change has made the Falcons a much more potent offensive team and Jahn scored the games first touchdown at the 8:41 mark of the first quarter on a fake handoff to Villi Tupou who blasted through two defenders to clear space for the run.
“Ben makes really good reads,” Mahle said. “He gave our receivers the opportunity to go out and catch the ball, he can throw it down field pretty far and we dominated the air this week.”
The Falcons scored three touchdowns in the air, the most of the season, and with Jahn at QB, Tupou becomes invaluable.
“We run the ball a lot,” Mahle said. “Villi is such a great athlete that he created huge holes on the option. We ran the option exceptionally well on Saturday and he was the reason. And when he gets the ball he is hard to bring down.”
Mahle also recognized the resurgence of running back Joe Ia.
Out of the option, Ia has become a legitimate deep threat with the speed to make contact at the line of scrimmage and still get out 40 yards down field to settle under a long pass.
Twice Ia faked blocks that sold his defenders on a run and he nestled in under passes untouched for touchdowns.
The first came after a Sitka score in the second quarter. Ia made a one hand grab along the sideline and scampered along for 66 yards and a 12-6 lead.
Villi Tupou would take in a 38-yard pass from Jahn with just 13 seconds remaining in the half and Ia’s second score came in the third quarter on a 15 yard Jahn spiral.
Mahle also praised the play of senior John Jolly.
Sitka made a momentum run in the in fourth quarter, closing to 31-14 with eight minutes remaining.
“We asked John to close the game out,” Mahle said. “We gave him the ball.”
Jolly took the ball 63 yards in three straight plays to put the game away, scoring on a 25-yard run with just over six minutes remaining in the game.
“Team are having a hard time defending our option now that the kids are comfortable and know what to do,” Mahle said. “It has just really taken off.”
The Falcons will honor their seniors on Friday during a game against visiting Argonaut from California.
TMHS will host a playoff game the following weekend. The Falcons will play the number two team from the Northern Lights Conference. That team has not yet been determined as the NLC has one conference game remaining.
Soldotna, who stopped 4A Wasilla 68-48 this weekend, has won the NLC and will host the NLC three seed. Homer and Kodiak look to be the two traveling playoff teams. They were scheduled to play Saturday but weather moved the game to late Sunday.
“The winner of that game is probably who we will play,” Mahle said. “But they still have one more week to go.”
How They Scored
8:42 TMHS Ben Jahn 31 yard TD run (kick no good) TMHS 6 - SHS 0
11:32 SHS Jeren Sumuaung 10 yard TD run (conversion no good) TMHS 6 - SHS 6
7:41 TMHS Joseph Ia 66 yard TD reception from Jahn (Kick no good) TMHS 12 - SHS 6
0:13 TMHS Villi Tupou 38 yard TD reception from Jahn (conversion no good) TMHS 18 - SHS 6
5:03 TMHS Joseph Ia 15 yard TD reception from Jahn (kick no good) TMHS 24 - SHS 6
2:01 TMHS Josh Tupou 41 yard interception return TD (conversion no good) TMHS 30 - SHS 6
8:48 TMHS Justin Pratt 6 yard TD reception from Boord (2pt conversion good) TMHS 30 - SHS 14
6:36 TMHS John Jolly 25 yard TD run (kick good) TMHS 37 - SHS 14
Thunder Mountain -
Ben Jahn 9-16 for 126 passing yards and 3TD; 4 carries for 43 rushing yards and 1 TD.
John Jolly 8 carries for 91 yards and 1 TD.
Joseph Ia 4 receptions for 95 yards and 2TD.
Josh Tupou 6 carries for 20 yards.
Villi Tupou 1 carry for 28 yards; 1 reception for 38 yards and 1 TD.
Mitchel Boord 3-3 for passing 26 yards and 1TD, 2 Int.
Lucas Balosteres 15 carries for 55 rushing yards.
Jeren Sumuaung 13 carries for 14 rushing yards and 1 TD.
Justin Pratt 1 reception for 6 yards and 1TD.
TMHS- 354 total yards with one turnover; Forced 5 turnovers, 3 interceptions, and 2 fumbles.
SHS - 95 total yards with five turnovers.