The game plan for the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears football team on Saturday night in Fairbanks and for their opponent the West Valley Wolfpack is the same: win and in.
Which ever team is on the higher total of the score board after the fourth quarter will earn a playoff berth, the loser will pack up their lockers and call it a season.
“We control our own road,” JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos said. “That is cut and dried.”
The Crimson Bears (4-3 overall, 3-2 conference) will be the three seed in next week’s quarterfinal playoff games if they win.
The West Valley Wolfpack (3-4, 2-3) will be the second or four seed if they win.
A lot of playoff questions will be answered tonight when Colony (5-2, 3-2) plays at North Pole (6-1, 4-1). The Patriots lone loss this season was to Palmer (7-0,5-0) by seven points. Number one seed Palmer hosts Wasilla (1-6, 0-5) on Friday and Lathrop (2-5, 1-5) plays out of league at Eielson.
What is at stake for the Patriots is a home playoff game, and a win assures that.
With a win the Colony Knights could push North Pole to a three seed, as they would have the head-to-head advantage.
If Colony wins on Friday night, JDHS must win on Saturday to be in the playoffs.
If Colony loses and JDHS loses, the scores of the games would matter as to who moves on.
For West Valley there is only a win on Saturday against JDHS that guarantees a playoff trip. If Colony loses Friday, West Valley will knock them out of the playoffs with a win on Saturday.
“This is like a playoff game for us,” Sjoroos said. “Five minutes after last week’s Palmer game ended I told our guys the playoffs start a week early for us. We have to win. The playoffs are an even playing field for everybody, it is the first time all year that somebody’s season can end, so even the higher seed has the added pressure of the lower seed.”
The Crimson Bears and Wolfpack game should not be a blow out in either direction.
This season JDHS beat Colony 21-20 and West Valley lost to Colony 23-19; JDHS lost to North Pole 46-27 and WV lost to NP 34-25; JDHS lost to Palmer 40-14 and WV lost to the Moose 26-7; both the Crimson Bears and Wolfpack beat Lathrop (JD 23-6, WV 13-12); and both beat Wasilla, JD 69-30 and WV 34-21.
West Valley was the preseason favorite, returning their entire backfield and three linemen, including the utility player of the year senior Larenzo Graham. The Wolfpack’s biggest player is just 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior nose tackle James Clawson, but they have a lot of speed.
Tailbacks Graham and senior Dominick Anderson; fullbacks JC Cummings (senior) and Cy Thomas (sophomore); and senior quarterback Tucker Plass.
The Wolfpack lost in the quarterfinals last season to South Anchorage 38-0.
This season will play out on Friday and Saturday.
“The exciting thing is this is all taking place up in Fairbanks and we get to be there,” Sjoroos said. “We’ll be able to check out their game and know what we need to do. The nice thing is that we don’t need any help from anybody. We just need to win. It will sort itself out on the field. Hopefully the stuff we have been working on will show some improvement on the field.”
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. (JV play at 3 p.m.).