Saturday’s 47-28 loss to the West Valley Wolfpack means the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears football team needs to get stronger, in a hurry.
The task is akin to surviving a tornado, and then waking up to a hurricane.
West Valley (4-4, 3-3 RB) is the third-ranked team in the Railbelt Conference. Service (7-1 overall, 7-0 CIC) is the top ranked football team in the state, defending state champions, and Cook Inlet Conference champions who have earned the right to host the Railbelt’s No. 4 seed Crimson Bears (3-3 RB).
The Wolf Pack and Crimson Bears definitely can put up offense. JDHS was hampered without the services of injured Trey Williams and Demetrius Campos among others.
West Valley led 14-0 before JDHS sophomore quarterback Dorian Isaak passed to senior Trevor Pfaff for a touchdown with three seconds remaining in the first half. A rare miss by the state’s best kicker, Crimson Bears senior Jackson Lehnhart, left the score at 14-6.
The two connected again just as the third quarter began and Isaak scampered in for a two-point conversion to tie the score at 14.
Just a minute later, however, the Wolfpack’s Lorenzo Graham broke one of his 16 rushes on the night for 55 yards and another score. Graham would score three times in the second half, adding touchdown carries with 83 yards and 7 yards and amassing 248 yards on the ground.
Isaak connected with Brian Brassfield with a 16-yarder at the 5:06 mark and Lehnhart drilled the extra point to tie the score at 21. The Crimson Bears were then picked off on their next possession and the play went the other way for another West Valley lead. The Pack defense added another pickoff score in the beginning of the fourth quarter for a 34-21 advantage.
Isaak had more success with his short pass game, connecting on a 2-yard touchdown dart to Pfaff with 10:32 remaining in the game to close the gap again and Lehnhart laced the 28th point.
The Wolfpack tightened up on their defense after giving up a fumble and held the Crimson Bears six yards from the goal. West Valley added two more scores and could have tried to force in a third as time expired which may have ousted JDHS from the playoffs all together, instead they took a knee to let time expire.
According to an interview in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos said, “It’s not the way we wanted to get in the playoffs. We wanted to win the game and gain some momentum, but sometimes momentum works the other way, too.”
West Valley finished in a three-way tie with Colony (5-3, 3-3 RB) and JDHS for third place in the Railbelt. The Wolfpack won the three-team tiebreaker on point differential against the other two teams of +15. Colony had a +3 and JDHS had a -18.
Once the three-way tie was broken, deciding the fourth-place team went to a two-way tiebreaker, which put JDHS in the playoffs by virtue of its 21-20 victory over Colony earlier in the season.
Colony lost to North Pole on Friday 48-42. The Knights could have been in the playoffs if they had won, instead, the Patriots’ Moo Rogers was 10-19 for 206 yards and 2 TDs to give North Pole another home game. Yet that feat was over shadowed by Colony senior quarterback Robert Lorentz who set the state single-game record of 530 yards on 41 of 54 passing with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
West Valley (4-4, 3-3 RB) travels to play CIC No. 2 seed South Anchorage (6-2, 6-1 CIC) at the Anchorage Football Stadium on Friday in the state quarterfinals.
Palmer High School (8-0, 6-0 RB), the RB No. 1 seed, will host East Anchorage (5-3, 4-3 CIC), the CIC No. 4.
North Pole High School (7-1, 5-1 RB), the RB No. 2 seed, will host West Anchorage (5-3, 5-2 CIC), the CIC No. 3.