While the entire Juneau-Douglas High School football team is looking forward to its season debut against Kodiak, two particular players have their own special reasons for getting excited.
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For sophomore running back/safety Silver Maake and senior quarterback Ryan "Bubba" Larson, Saturday's 8 p.m. kickoff at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field represents a return to the gridiron and a new start.
For Maake, a promising freshman season ended with a broken leg suffered during the second game of last season.
Now, his right leg feels healthy while coaches and teammates alike can't stop raving about the 210-pound sophomore.
"He's fast, he hits really hard and can find holes," JDHS junior Alex Fagerstrom said. "That's always nice to have - someone who can run somebody over or juke by them. On defense, he's strong and doesn't mess up."
Maake credits working out with his father for helping him return to top form.
Despite his youth, JDHS expects big things from the speedy sophomore. Maake will play the feature role of tailback in offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos' offense.
During Monday's intersquad scrimmage, Maake showcased hit speed and power by ripping through for some big gains.
"I feel like I can come into it and do the work," Maake said.
Crimson Bears defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes will put the sophomore at safety, allowing him to read and react to what he sees in front of him.
"I'm very excited to play safety," Maake said. "It gives me more time to read the plays."
While Maake is excited to get back on field, Larson will be making his football debut as a senior.
Larson, better known as a 3-point shooting specialist for the boys basketball team, hasn't played competitive football since eighth grade and joined the team to help fill the void left by the graduated Chris Hinkley.
So not only is Larson getting used to playing football again, he's learning the most mentally demanding position on the gridiron.
"I'm getting there," Larson said. "(Coach Sjoroos) is only giving me a certain part of the offense so far. I still have a long way to go, but I'm putting my mind to it. It should be fun."
Larson faces arguably the steepest learning curve of any player on the team.
Fortunately for Larson, his role will be more of a caretaker than playmaker. With a strong stable of running backs behind him, including Maake and Fagerstrom, Larson won't be expected to throw for 200 yards a game.
He needs to be just efficient enough to keep opposing defenses honest.
"My expectations of Ryan is that he doesn't lose his confidence and he runs the offense the way he knows he can," JDHS coach Bill Chalmers said. "He's a very outgoing, bright individual and he needs to show that. He doesn't have to be the state's leading passer, and he won't be. We don't expect that of him."
Both Maake and Larson said they can't wait for Saturday.
They won't be alone.
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or email@example.com.
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