Juneau-Douglas High School senior Demetrius Campos can run the 80-yard dash in at least 11 seconds.
That was all the time it took Campos to score on the Crimson Bears’ first play of the game. He broke off an 80-yard run for a touchdown and an 8-0 lead after Eric Nordgren ran in the conversion, as Juneau-Douglas toppled Kenai 42-15 in the State Medium School football semifinal Saturday at Dimond High School’s Alumni Field. The Crimson Bears will play Soldotna, a 63-33 winner over North Pole, for the state championship next Saturday at the Anchorage Football Stadium.
“It means everything to win this game,” Campos said. “We have to do whatever we can do to get wins.”
It took less time for Campos, the Southeast Conferences Offensive Player and Kickoff Returner of the Year, to dart 72 yards on the opening kickoff of the second half for a 22-6 advantage.
It took even less time for Campos to scamper 45 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter for his third touchdown of the game and a 35-13 advantage after he tiptoed in the conversion once again.
“I just wanted to get out there and help my teammates,” Campos said. “That is it. We are looking forward to playing Soldotna. They are a great team and the challenge is what this game is all about.”
Kenai found good field position on the opening kickoff and all-state running back Jace Daniels broke for nine yards on the first carry, brought down by the Crimson Bears all-conference lineman JD Hudson. Hudson, Hunter Hickok and Derik Vance stacked up the middle on the next carry. And Hickok stopped Daniels again on third-and-one on the Crimson Bears’ 47. Kenai quarterback TJ Wagoner got the yard on a roll out.
Daniels broke another run for a first down to the 36 but was stopped by Hickok after a one-yard carry the next play. Hickok had a team-high eight tackles.
“My mindset was basically trying to stop the run,” Hickok said. “My mission is to see the ball and attack the ball. I couldn’t have done it without my other defensive lineman JD Hudson and George Grummett.”
Kenai burned six minutes off the clock but opted to punt and JDHS took over on its own 20, setting up the direct snap on its first play to Campos, who broke a tackle and out-sprinted the Kardinals to the end zone 80-yards away.
“It was interesting in that we only ran four plays in the first quarter,” Sjoroos said. “We had some penalties that set us back but we cleaned that up in the second half and found our rhythm a little bit.”
On the Kardinals’ next possession, Daniels was stopped at the 20 by the Crimson Bears’ black wall, first by Nordgren (defensive MVP of the game) then by Hickok, forcing a third-and-five. Wagoner broke a run to the 35 for a first down, but again the Kardinals had to punt from JDHS’ 48-yard line and Nordgren took the fair catch on the 20.
“We try to preach tackle low, wrap them up, fire to the ball,” JDHS head coach Rich Sjoroos said. “No real magic formula there. A lot of it really comes down to determination and reading your keys. We have a lot of guys who can react really well.”
Campos and the Bears faced third-and-16 in the series. An illegal block negated a 7-yard gain by Campos and Adam Empson had to punt the ball to Kenai’s 38.
The third possession for Kenai moved into the second quarter and the Kardinals’ Chris Vandegrift picked up a first down to the Crimson Bears’ 44.
A missed snap put a loose ball into the hands of Hickok on the 38. JDHS got a holding penalty on the next play and was backed up to the 16 and two plays later gave the ball back on a fumble, allowing Kenai to move to the five. Daniels scored to make it an 8-6 game and George Sua tackled the Kardinals behind the line of scrimmage to save the lead.
Nordgren returned the kickoff to the 36. Campos was bottled up and the Crimson Bears faced third-and-two on their own 44. An offensive penalty, lining up in the neutral zone, forced a third-and-seven. Kenai bit on a hard snap to make a third-and-two and Nordgren battled to the 47 to keep the drive alive.
Kenai’s Mason Lloyd and Kyle Hunter put the Crimson Bears on their backs and forced another third-and-out play. Fourth-and-five saw Dorian Isaak again draw a hard count against Kenai for a first down.
Three plays later the Crimson Bears again approached a fourth-down situation just over the mid-line. Lining up to punt, Empson instead passed to Nordgren in the flats and he rambled for 44 yards and a touchdown and a 14-6 advantage heading into the break.
“We hadn’t had a game in 15 days,” Sjoroos said. “The thing that had me the most concerned was that Kenai had got that first-round playoff game where they got the chance to go through the motions that their kids careers and seasons might end. But ours wasn’t until today. That was why in the first half we kind of played a little tentative, a little too tight.”
With the Crimson Bears leading 14-6 starting the second half Campos broke his fifth kickoff return touchdown of the season and then ran in the two-point conversion for a 22-6 advantage.
“Teams are playing with fire when they kick the ball to him,” Sjoroos said. “Sometimes teams think they have a really good kicker and so they want to make that choice.”
The Kardinals had picked that side of the field for the wind and instead it gave the ball a nice high hop that Campos tucked away.
Kenai took the ensuing kickoff to the 50 and Daniels continued to batter his way up field. The Kardinals worked down to the one-yard line and Chase Logan plunged over for a score.
“It shows how strong those kids are,” Sjoroos said. “There was no break in their spirit. Daniels got his yards but we were able to rally when they gave the ball to somebody else. Once we got up by three scores you could tell it was tough for them because they are not a quick-strike offense.”
A JDHS penalty after the score put the opening kick return team back inside the five but Manase Maake ran the return out to the 30.
The Crimson Bears adjusted their sets in the second half. Wind had already taken away their pass-first options. Typically a strong side heavy team, the Crimson Bears began to use Sua and Campos to reverse weak side. Sua would lead block and Campos would eat up yards.
Isaak looked at third and long and an illegal motion call put the yards at 14. Another delay of game call puts the ball at the 20 with another 20 needed. Campos was dropped on the sweep after one yard by Vandegrift but the call was a personal foul and JDHS moved to third-and-three. Campos followed a Sua block to a first down at their own 47. Kris Hill kept the drive alive, taking a pass from Isaak to the 36 of Kenai and then in the flats to get to the 17. Isaak then hit Empson in the right corner for a touchdown.
Sua caught Daniels in the backfield on Kenai’s next possession and JDHS was rewarded with a punt reception on its own 25. Campos ran the ball past the Crimson Bears 40 and then again to the Kardinals’ 40 as the third quarter ended.
Campos took the first play of the fourth quarter for 45 yards and a touchdown to give the Crimson Bears a 35-13 lead.
After Dartanan Campos blitzed in from defensive end to sack Daniels in the backfield, Kenai had to punt again.
JDHS’ final drive brought the clock to under six minutes and the ball to the Kenai 20. Nordgren pounded into the end zone for his second score of the day and the final 42-15 advantage after the extra point.
“I feel really good, we are ready to go to the state championships,” Nordgren said. “Basically my mind set is to try and shut down the run on defense and on the offense I just try to do what I can with the ball. My main focus on number 11. He is a good running back so I was just looking for him the whole game, trying to get on him as soon as he got to the line.”
Daniels kept banging the line for the Kardinals, setting up a final field goal try from the 34-yard line. Kenai’s Nolan Scarlett had the kick blocked and recovered by Kris Hill on the 49.
The longest play of the game came after the final whistle. Sjoroos, who turned 44 years old Saturday, received a celebratory dousing of Gatorade and after running through a “birthday tunnel” of his players, was given a gift of multiple shaving cream facials. Sjoroos said he’s been coaching for 21 years but never before coached on his birthday.
“They got me pretty good,” he said. “Kids like this are the reason why I coach.”
The Crimson Bears will now play Soldotna in the First National Bowl medium school state championship at Anchorage Football Stadium on Saturday at noon.
HOW THEY SCORED:
Juneau-Douglas 42, Kenai 15
First Quarter –
5:45 Demetrius Campos 80 yard run (Eric Nordgren conversion run), JDHS 8 KHS 0
Second Quarter –
5:24 Jace Daniels 1 yard run (2-pt conversion fails) JDHS 8 KHS 6
1:38 Adam Empson pass to Eric Nordgren 44 yards (kick no good) JDHS 14 KHS 6
Third Quarter -
11:78 Demetrius Campos 72 yard kick return (Campos converts) JDHS 22 KHS 6
8:21 Chase Logan 1 yard run (Nolan Scarlett kick) JDHS 22 KHS 13
4:10 Dorian Isaak 18 yard pass to Adam Empson (kick no good) JDHS 28 KHS 13
Fourth Quarter -
11:59 Demetrius Campos 45 yard touchdown run (Adam Empson kick) 35 13
10:33 Eric Nordgren tackled for safety JDHS 35 KHS 15
5:54 Eric Nordgren 23 yard run (Maake kick) JDHS 42 KHS 15
JUNEAU / KENAI
First downs - 13 / 15
Rushes-yards - 28-271 / 55-198
Passing yards - 104 / 45
Return yards - 144 / 89
Passes - 6-14-0 / 4-11-0
Punts - 1-37.0 / 6-34.2
Fumbles-lost - 1-1 / 2-1
Penalties-yards - 11-70 / 5-35
RUSHING — Juneau: Campos 20-208, Nordgren 8-63. Kenai: Daniels 43-160, Wagoner 6-29, Logan 6-9.
PASSING — Juneau: Isaak 5-13-0—60, Empson 1-1-0—44. Kenai: Wagoner 4-11-0—45.
RECEIVING — Juneau: Hill 3-40, Nordgren 1-44, Empson 1-17, Campos 1-9. Kenai: Logan 1-19, Van De Grift 1-15, Daniels 1-11, Baker 1-(-1).
Nordgren and Hickok led JDHS with 8 solo tackles apiece, Hudson 5, Grummett and Sua 4 each, Dartanan Campos and Derik Vance 3 apiece, and Trey Williams, Noah McVay and Kris Hill 1 each.
In other state tournament action the Soldotna Stars (10-0) ran over the North Pole Patriots (7-2) 63-33 in the medium school second semifinal.
Jake Kooly (26 carries for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns) and sophomore back Drew Gibbs (16 carries for 177 yards; two receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown) accounted for all but one of Soldotna’s touchdowns. Garrett Sommer finished led North Pole with a game-high 198 passing yards, going 10 for 20. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for an additional 101 yards on 18 carries. Running back Deaundre Campbell led the Patriots on the ground with 144 yards on nine carries, chipping in two touchdowns. Wright led the team in the air, catching four passes for 131 yards.
In the small school state championship game the Nikiski Bulldogs topped the Monroe Rams 36-28 on Saturday at AFS. Nikiski (7-3) totaled 363 yards on the ground and Monroe (6-2) found 341 yards in the air.
INDIVIDUAL STATS: Rushing -- Nikiski: Eide 25-144; Riddall 16-124; Stangel 19-95; Anderson 1-0. Monroe: Gavora 5-13; Callahan 3-6; Bynum 2-2; Wells 4-(-20). Passing -- Nikiski: Anderson 5-8-0--36. Monroe: Wells 15-33-2--341. Receiving -- Nikiski: Stangel 3-16; Carstens 1-17; Feller 1-3. Monroe: Callahan 6-122; Neville 5-107; Bynum 4-112.
Small-school state champions:
(Year Winner Runner Up Score)
2013 Nikiski Monroe 36-28; 2012 Eielson Nikiski 27-7; 2011 Nikiski Barrow 52-21; 2010 Soldotna Kenai 77-42; 2009 Kenai Soldotna 21-10; 2008 Soldotna Kodiak 28-6;2007 Soldotna Kodiak 47-27; 2006 Soldotna Kodiak 29-20; 2005 Kenai Eielson 42-10; 2004 Kenai Soldotna 20-14; 2003 Kenai Eielson 46-0; 2002 Kenai Soldotna 7-0; 2001 Nikiski Seward 34-15; 2000 Nikiski Soldotna 20-14.
In large school action West Anchorage defeated Palmer 26-23 in overtime of one semifinal. The game was tied at 7-7 in the first quarter, 13-13 in the thrid, and 20-20 after four.
INDIVIDUAL STATS: Rushing -- Palmer: Nisbett 24-153; V. Aumavae 10-67; B. Aumavae 6-40; Watson 1-23; Merritt 11-19. West: Faamasino 27-138; Davis 11-70; Elliott 2-3. Passing -- Palmer: Merritt 0-6-0--0. West: Davis 13-27-1--196. Receiving -- West: Elliott 7-95; Rayford 4-90; Faamasino 2-11.
In the other large school semifinal Service (8-2) rallied to defeat Dimond (4-6) 47-27. Service’s C.J. Toomer threw for 3 touchdowns and 277 yards, setting an unofficial single-season state passing record of 2,624 yards. Service will play West for the large school state title game on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Anchorage Football Stadium.