Juneau-Douglas High School senior Eric Nordgren and classmate Demetrius Campos showed the heart of the Crimson Bears football team during Friday night’s 26-20 win over California’s Viewpoint Patriots.
Nordgren scored on an interception and a kickoff return and made a touchdown-saving tackle. Campos returned a 90-yard kickoff for pay dirt and covered Viewpoint’s top receiver Noah Doneen all night.
“The kids turned the game around tonight,” Juneau head coach Rich Sjoroos said. “We couldn’t have played much worse in the first half offensively, but our defense was great and kept us in the game.”
Special teams played big for both teams as Viewpoint’s Doneen scored on an interception just 30 seconds into the game and Bobby Webster kicked the extra point.
Six minutes later, Nordgren scored on his own interception to cut into the lead 7-6. The extra point failed.
“I feel great,” Nordgren said. “Making the run up the middle and then we brought the game back. My mindset was, I am taking it to the end zone and we are going to win this game. It’s my senior year and we are going to take it.”
JDHS recovered an onside kick after the score but a bad snap during an advancing drive put the Crimson Bears back into a punting situation.
Viewpoint added a field goal by Webster and a 1-yard plunge by running back Dominick Brown to hold a 17-6 halftime lead.
Brown’s score came on a controversial call. The Crimson Bears defense held firm with 2:18 remaining in the first half. The Patriots put a punt inside the 5-yard line of JDHS that a Patriots player touched but did not control. Campos alertly tried to advance the ball, fumbled and the ball was awarded to Viewpoint.
“We teach our kids that if they touch a ball or kick it like that we want them to go try to make a big play because nothing can happen to you,” Sjoroos said. “No matter what happens after, you try to get the ball. Unfortunately the call was missed. But I want D (Campos) to do that every time he has a chance.”
Sjoroos could not remember the last time a JDHS team trailed at halftime by as much at Adair Kennedy Field and came back to win.
“Usually we are invincible at home,” Sjoroos said. “When we get behind at home, our armor is broken and we are having trouble and it usually goes from bad to worse.”
Before the game Sjoroos wrote on the team chalkboard all the scores of games against out-of-state teams.
“We’ve won a few,” Sjoroos said. “But we have lost a lot more than we have won.”
Sjoroos had a second column on the board that showed the score in the first half.
“We always come out shell-shocked because they are not from around here, we can’t compete. This team doesn’t believe in that stuff. They are a different group and I told them that tonight.”
The magic started for JDHS with the opening kickoff of the second half. Senior Campos took the kick deep on the right side of the Crimson Bears half, slashed to the middle and continued into the left side of Viewpoints defense and across the goal line with just 14 seconds gone. Manase Maake added the extra point.
JDHS then stopped the Patriots next possession and Kris Hill took a pass over his shoulder from Dorian Isaak and raced 67-yards for the score. Maake added another boot for a 20-17 advantage.
“The adrenaline was pumping,” Hill said. “I just kept running and I felt that guy on my backside and he pushed me into the end zone. It was just a great feeling. I am faster than I look.”
While Viewpoint quarterback Zack Chulak connected on 29 passes for 329 yards, most came on short flare outs and hitch runs as JDHS kept the action in front of them and the Patriots earning hard yardage.
JDHS’ Isaak only connected on two passes and had an interception, yet totaled 90 yards through the air.
“I just told my teammates to continue what they were doing,” Isaak said. “They had a lot of faith in me which really helped because I made some mistakes in the game. They kept my head up for me and they just kept making plays. We continued to stay confidant and build each other up. It means a lot to know the team will have my back. It is really helpful. We have a great team this year, great chemistry.”
Viewpoint worked downfield quickly after Hill’s score but could only manage a field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Nordgren barreled down field, broke two tackles and rumbled into the end zone for the 26-20 lead.
The JDHS defense came up big in the final eight minutes.
After Nordgren’s score, Viewpoint returned the their own 36-yard line. A swing pass put the ball into the hands of Doneen, who broke a tackle and was headed for pay dirt. Nordgren, playing as a linebacker, fought back from a blitz and chased down Doneen at the 11 and as the Crimson Bears held strong to force a fourth-and-14, Nordgren forced the receiver to miss an end zone pass.
Twice the Crimson Bears watched as Viewpoint got within 10-yards of a score.
With Viewpoint looking at fourth-and-one at the 19-yard line of JDHS, the Crimson Bears surged into the backfield to drop the Patriots for a loss.
Isaak then took a knee three times to run out the clock for the win, as Viewpoint had no timeouts available.
“The message I had for everybody after the game was our kids stick together,” Sjoroos said. “That is what I have known about this group and why they are such a fun group, they are fun to be around and fun to coach and we have a great chemistry right now and we stick together. We had to do it through defense and special teams tonight. People say there are three phases to the game and I don’t think it was proven any bigger than tonight.”
Defense across the line was huge for both teams. JDHS totaled one yard after combining the 23 carrying attempts of its runners, while Viewpoint totaled three among their backs’ 28 carries. Both teams had one bad snap on a punt attempt resulting in good field position for the opposition. Sjoroos credited coaches Eddie Brakes and Al Fenumiai for implementing a solid defensive mindset.
“Coach Al is great with the technique and working with the linemen up front,” Sjoroos said. “Coach Eddie breaks down the film and puts kids in the right spots and if they continue we will be unstoppable.”
The Crimson Bears did get some bad news as they gathered on the field after the game. A local pizza restaurant would not stay open to host the team’s victory meal. Sjoroos found an alternate solution and Domino’s delivered the victory celebration.
The Crimson Bears will next host a familiar foe as North Pole, which joined the Southeast Conference from the Railbelt along with JDHS, comes to town Saturday. Game time is 8 p.m. at Adair Kennedy.
Juneau-Douglas (2-0) 26, Viewpoint (1-1) 20.
Scoring by quarters:
11:27 - VP: Noah Doneen 23 interception return (Bobby Webster kick).
5:25 - JD: Eric Nordgren 30 interception return (kick failed).
3:55 - VP: Webster 33 field goal.
2:14 - VP: Dominick Brown 1 run (Webster kick).
11:46 - JD: Demetrius Campos 90 kickoff return (Manase Maake kick).
8:34 - JD: Kris Hill 67 pass from Dorian Isaak (Maake kick).
8:46 - VP: Webster 22 field goal.
8:36 - JD: Nordgren 77 kickoff return (kick failed).
Team statistics -
JD 23-1-0; VP 28-3-1
JD 2-13-90-1-1; VP 29-47-329-0-3
Total offense: JD 91; VP 332
First downs: JD 3; VP15
Penalties: JD 9-74; VP 8-65
Fumbles-lost: JD 3-2; VP 3-1
Individual statistics -
JD: George Sua 7-27-0, Demetrius Campos 3-18-0, Dorian Isaak 5-2-0, Romney Tupou 2-2-0, Brady Mallinger 1-1-0, Team 5-(-49). Total 23-1-0.
VP: Dominick Brown 23-17-1, Adam Balaban 3-16-0, Zack Chulak 1-(-9)-0, Team 1-(-20).
JD: Dorian Isaak 2-13-90-1-1.
VP: Zack Chulak 29-47-329-0-3.
JD: Kris Hill 1-67-1, Devin Flake 1-23-0.
VP: Noah Doneen 17-202-0, Drew Neubauer 6-58-0, Adam Balaban 1-25-0, Dominick Brown 2-17-0, Tim McAloon 1-11-0.