The Juneau-Douglas High School football team’s worst fears were realized Friday night.
John Elisoff, Dylan Vernon and Navy Nauer — three of the sturdiest lineman for head coach Kevin Hamrick — sustained game-ending injuries against Houston High School in Big Lake.
But, on the bright side for the Crimson Bears was senior Liam Van Sickle’s three touchdowns. Van Sickle’s go-ahead score in the fourth quarter led to a 27-20 road victory for Juneau.
Two of Van Sickle’s three scores against the Hawks were kickoff returns.
“We were actually pretty ugly,” Hamrick said of his team after the game, citing missed blocks and fumbles. “But with the victory, that provides the motivation for them to hopefully work harder on the execution.”
Houston led 8-0 in the first quarter after JDHS missed an opportunity to take the lead.
“The first play of the game should have been a touchdown to (Van Sickle),” Hamrick said. “We ran him on just a fade down the sideline because there are very few teams that have the speed to cover him, and he was wide open. Bubba (Stults) was so excited he just overthrew him.”
At the half, the Hawks led 14-7. The first of Van Sickle’s two kickoff returns accounted for JDHS’ only points.
Injuries affected both teams’ play in the second half. In the third quarter, a Houston player went down with a broken leg.
“We lost three linemen so we were down to just, ‘Hey you’re going to play lineman,’” Hamrick said. “We got pretty beat up, a couple of shoulder injuries, a foot injury and we were looking around and (asking) ‘Who’s healthy?’ towards the end there.”
Kicker Elliot Gifford’s three extra points made a larger difference than the final score indicated.
The Hawks trailed 21-20 late in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over. With under a minute left in the game, Hamrick didn’t plan on scoring another touchdown.
“I just said give it to Lance (Galletes-Fiagatusa) up the middle because time was running out, we were up by one point,” Hamrick said. “I figured he’d just get tackled and we’d win the game and he wound up taking it to the house for about a 70-yard scamper.”
JDHS passed on kicking the point after, with the game already in the bag.
The Crimson Bears return home next Saturday for one of their three home games this season. JDHS and Ketchikan kick-off at 6 p.m. at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.