The character of a team is found in defeat.
On Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Field the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears were tested from the Colony Knights’ opening kick off through a merciless grind, until Knights quarterback Steven Bilafer took a knee to let the last grizzly seconds tick off the scoreboard clock.
The Crimson Bears fell 48-0, but they rose time and time again, lifting one another off the turf, limping to huddles, delivering blow after blow to defend one another in a game they were expected to not be able to compete in.
With four major starting players serving a one game suspension, a new JDHS offense with players in unfamiliar positions was pitted against a red hot Colony team that smelled more crimson than black and played with that purpose.
“We ran a different formation and now we have that under our belt to do anytime we need,” senior running back and linebacker Brady Mallinger said.
Mallinger, limping to the quarterback position, time and again, earned the privilege of wearing the JDHS colors.
“I think it is really going to make us want it more and do better,” Mallinger said. “We thought we were handed our record. We did well last year and we feel like we are a great team but now we know we have to work super hard and get better.”
The Knights scored 21 first quarter points behind the powerful legs of Logan Conway, who ran for three scores in that period and another in the third stanza.
“The line,” Colony quarterback Bilafer said. “They were key. Just blocking and springing Logan (Conway) free. Our motto is four yards every play and we definitely got that with Logan following. Without the line the score would not be the way it is.”
Colony running back Logan Conway echoed the team concept.
“I owe what I do to my line,” Conway said. “My line puts a lot of work in, they improve every single week, I am proud of them. Every single day they come to work and it shows. They are putting me up there, I am getting a lot of people talking to me, so thanks to my line, a shout out to them.”
That line opened holes for the Knights and filled craters on the Crimson Bears.
JDHS senior fullback and linebacker Romney Tupou and senior wide receiver and defensive back Manase Maake were ridden hard in the backfield. Each step taken was not without a collision with a Colony player.
“I did all right,” Tupou said.
Tears filled the young man’s confession.
“There are some things I could have worked on,” Tupou said. “We just had one week to work on things — one week.”
Tupou earned the right to wear the JDHS colors.
The second quarter was almost complete before the Knights found the end zone for a 27-0 halftime advantage.
The Crimson Bears had stopped their opponents on two drives, intercepted a pass and looked like a team who had found their calling. The ball was inching closer to their first score and then, abruptly, demanded to be taken away, longed to lie, rolling slowly across the turf in a fumble. Six runs by Tupou, a run by Kiko Iona and a Mallinger rush was all for naught.
There were no excuses as Crimson Bears head coach Kevin Hamrick reflected on the night.
“We did a lot of good things,” Hamrick said. “We had a lot of mistakes. We had a couple of third and shorts and we jumped off sides and gave them first downs, critical in a game like this where we were a little short-handed. Those mistakes really compiled to make it even more difficult than it would have been playing a clean game.”
Hamrick found the silver lining on the green field, matted with the ghosts of fallen players.
“We can pound the ball when we need to,” Hamrick said. “We can definitely pound the ball. It helped us become more diversified. We got to look at a lot of run guys and when we evaluate the films we will see how they did and we will just move forward. That is what life is about, overcoming adversity.”
The young Crimson Bears stepped up.
When Mallinger could barely stand anymore, freshman Kasey Watts crouched to face opponents that weighed 100 pounds more. Classmates Liam Van Sickle, Michael Cesar, and John Elisoff were among the many who took hard hits and delivered hard hits.
Juneau’s underclassmen earned the JDHS colors.
Even senior offensive and defensive lineman Hunter Hickok, who discouraged his fellow players from talking to the media, earned colors.
Hickok recorded five tackles and classmate Manase Maake, half his size but with twice the heart of any all-state lineman, had six.
It won’t show on the scoreboard today and it didn’t show last night, but colors were earned.
“He is a load,” a Knights player said as Tupou walked slowly across the fan-less path to his team’s post game huddle.
“He is a load.”
HOW THEY SCORED:
KNIGHTS 48, CRIMSON BEARS 0
Colony 21 / 6 / 7 / 14 -48
Juneau 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 -0
Col – 7:28, Conway 12 run (Menard kick) 7-0
Col - 5:17, Conway 10 run (Menard kick) 14-0
Col - 1:45, Conway 23 run (Menard kick) 21-0
Col - :36, Looney 12 pass from Bilafer (kick failed) 27-0
Col - 9:17, Conway 13 run (Menard kick) 34-0
Col - 11:06, Nash 31 run (Menard kick) 41-0
Col - 4:31, Callahan 8 run (Menard kick) 48-0
Total offensive yards- 401; Passing yards- 111, Rushing yards- 290, First downs- 16.
Penalties- 5 for 25 yards, 3rd down conversions- 3-4, Turnovers- 1.
Total offensive yards- 142, Passing yards- 0, Rushing yards- 142, First downs- 7.
Penalties- 6 for 35 yards, 3rd down conversions- 3-10, Turnovers- 3.
Passing- Steven Bilafer- 5-12, 111 yards, TD, INT
Rushing- Logan Conway- 20 carries, 181 yards, 4 TD; Robert Nash- 1 rush, 37 yards, TD; Steven Bilafer- 5 carries, 42 yards.
Receiving- Tucker Looney- 3 receptions, 43 yards, TD.
Defense- Lance Freeman- 8 tackles, fumble recovery; Demetrius Mutini- 5 tackles, fumble recovery, forced fumble.
Kicking- Harrison Menard- 6-7
Passing- Brady Mallinger- 0-2, Interception.
Rushing- Romney Tupou- 10 carries, 90 yards, fumble; Manase Maake- 12 carries, 36 yards.
Defense- Manase Maake- 6 tackles, interception.
John Elisoff- 2 tackles, 1 sack; Hunter Hickok- 5 tackles.