The Juneau-Douglas High School football team has moved up a notch to the second place ranking in the final Alaska Sports Broadcasters Poll, sitting nicely behind top-ranked Soldotna and setting up what should be a powerful state championship game in the medium division in three weeks.
JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos watched Saturday’s season finale between Kodiak and Kenai at the Kardinals’ nest.
“Soldotna is pretty impressive,” Sjoroos said. “Their team speed was a lot faster than I expected.”
The Crimson Bears are the No. 1 seed in the Southeast Conference and get a bye in the first round of the state football playoffs this weekend while No. 2 seed North Pole hosts No. 3 Ketchikan. That winner will play the winner of Northern Lights Conference No. 1 Soldotna and No. 4 Houston in the semifinals while JDHS plays the winner of Kodiak (NLC 3) and Kenai (NLC 2) at Dimond High School in Anchorage on Oct. 19. The state medium school championship is played at noon on Oct. 26 at the Anchorage Football Stadium.
“When they (Soldotna) had guys out in the open field the Kenai kids couldn’t catch them,” Sjoroos said. “And Kenai has some fast guys of their own. So it showed me the overall speed of their team and their fitness level, both groups seemed really fit. They seemed to be pretty solid.”
While Soldotna has a potent ground game, the Crimson Bears have a solid front line to counter it. JDHS, however, is not looking past their first-round matchup and Soldotna will not overlook Houston, whom they defeated 76-28 earlier in the season.
“Kenai played Kodiak earlier in the season and beat them by one point,” Sjoroos said. “It should be a good football game. And Soldotna’s defense has gotten better. I don’t know how Houston will get the ball in the end zone against them.”
It is expected that the Stars will play North Pole in the semifinals. The Patriots have tall receivers and a running quarterback plus a solid line on both offense and defensive that should overpower the visiting Ketchikan Kings this Saturday.
The large school quarterfinals begin Friday with Lathrop (Railbelt Conference 3) at West Anchorage (Cook Inlet Conference 1) at 7 p.m. and Dimond (CIC 5) at Colony (RBC 2), also at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Chugiak (CIC 4) plays at Service (CIC 2) at 4 p.m. and South (CIC 3) at Palmer (RBC 2) at 7 p.m.
The small school semifinals begin Friday with Eielson (3) at Nikiski (2) at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday Barrow (4) plays at Monroe Catholic (1) at 1 p.m. The small school state championship is at noon on Oct. 19 at the AFS.
The large school semifinals are Friday, Oct. 18 (noon) and Saturday, Oct. 19 (6:30 p.m.) at AFS. The state title game is Oct. 26 (4 p.m.) at AFS.
Medium/Small School Final Poll:
1. Soldotna 8-0
2. Juneau-Douglas 7-1
3. North Pole 6-1
4. Monroe Catholic 6-2
5(Tie) Kodiak 5-2
5. Kenai 7-1
Large School Final Poll:
1. West 5-2
2. Service 5-2
3. Colony 4-4
4. Palmer 5-2
5. South 5-2