FAIRBANKS - Juneau-Douglas High School started the football season Saturday with a new quarterback in senior Dakota Smith, but the Crimson Bears still resembled the squad that went 11-0 last year and captured the large schools state football title.
West Valley had a new head coach in Ben Johnson, his first time as a head varsity coach after serving as an assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach at his alma mater, Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff, Ariz., from 2000-'06. The Wolfpack players were also running new schemes on both sides of the ball.
But West Valley had the same result Saturday that it had in all eight games last year - a loss.
The Crimson Bears overwhelmed the hosts 45-7 in the season and Railbelt Conference opener at West Valley High School.
Senior defensive back Victor Wisel's 70-yard interception with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter kept Smith from steering the Crimson Bears to a shutout.
The Wolfpack, who have lost nine games in a row going back to the 2006 season, battled the Crimson Bears closely in the first quarter, only seceding a safety with 6:54 left, as the snap for punter Ty Davis went into the end zone with fourth down and 21 yards to go from the Wolfpack 19-yard line.
The Crimson Bears then rattled off 23 more points in the second quarter, scoring on another safety and two runs and a pass by Smith.
"After a safety, after mental mistakes, guys were putting their heads down,'' Wisel said. "They just didn't want to play after that, they weren't ready.''
It was a learning experience for Johnson.
"First game, first new system for them, and there were parts that went well and there were parts that need to be brushed up,'' Johnson said.
One thing that went well for West Valley was Wisel's interception.
Juneau was facing second down and 6 yards to go from its 43 yard when Wisel picked off Smith's pass at the 30-yard line near the Crimson Bears bench. He cut across the middle of the field and outraced a convey of Crimson Bears down the right sideline.
"We were in zone coverage and I was just dropping back, and the quarterback had been lobbing it up," Wisel said. "He lobbed it again and I came forward and took it, and I took it down the sideline.''
It was the only time that West Valley penetrated Juneau's half of the field.
The Crimson Bears generated 425 yards in total offense to the Wolfpack's 32. In the first half, Juneau's defense held the Wolfpack to a dismal 1 yard of offense and sacked Wolfpack quarterback Sam McKinstry six times. Smith and Co. compiled 146 yards in the opening half, and he was sacked only once in the half by Wolfpack defensive lineman Jake Jackson.
"We just worked as hard as we could to get into the backfield, and as soon as we got there, we just tore it up," said Crimson Bears senior defensive lineman and linebacker Nate Wilson, who accounted for three of his team's sacks. Smith tore it up offensively, recording more than 100 yards each through the air and on the ground.
Smith, who spent last season quarterbacking Juneau's JV and playing on the varsity's defensive line, rushed 13 times for 110 yards and touchdowns of 10 yards each in the second quarter, and a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. He threw for 164 yards on nine of 17 attempts with the interception, and connected with junior running back Jack Perkins on a 12-yard touchdown with 19.8 seconds left in the first and found Sam Nauer for a 30-yard score with 9:07 left in the third.
Smith also played at defensive end Saturday, and he and defensive tackle Eric Sele fell on Davis in the end zone for the safety in the first quarter.
"We just did our homework,'' Smith said. "We looked for cushions, seeing who could beat who on the outside."
Senior teammate Lincoln Maka rushed for game-high 113 yards on eight carries and scored on a 4-yard run with 5:50 left in the third for a 38-0 lead.
"Lincoln did a good job of running up the middle and sucking everyone into the middle when they were expecting the pass,'' Smith said.
McKinstry, a junior who entered the game as the state's leading returning passer, was held to 53 yards on eight of 21 attempts with an interception. Senior running back Jacob Claypoole led West Valley's ground attack with 12 yards on 12 carries.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.
Crimson Bears 45, Wolfpack 7
Juneau 2 23 13 7 - 45
West Valley 0 0 0 7 - 7
JD-Safety (snap goes into the end zone), 6:54.
JD-Dakotah Smith 10 run (Fronimo kick), 11:27.
JD-Smith 10 run (Slagle kick), 9:28.
JD-Safety (snap goes out of the end zone), 7:19.
JD-Jack Perkins 12 pass from Smith (Slagle kick), :19.8.
JD-Sam Nauer 30 pass from Smith (Slagle kick), 9:07.
JD-Lincoln Maka 4 run (kick blocked), 5:50.
WV-Victor Wisel 70 interception return (McDonough kick), 8:34.
JD-Smith 1 run (Slagle kick), 6:04.
First downs 15 4
Rushes-yards 40-251 24-(-21)
Comp-Att-Int 9-17-1 8-21-1
Passing yards 164 53
Return yards 88 145
Punts 4-32.3 6-35.2
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-70 3-21
RUSHING - Juneau-Douglas: L. Maka 8-113, Smith 13-110, Nauer 4-29, Randy Segelhorst 2-3, Nate Wilson 2-1, Perkins 1-(5-). West Valley: Jacob Claypoole 12-12, Jake Jackson 4-2, Jordan Cofield 2-1, McKinstry 6-(-34).
PASSING - Juneau-Douglas: Smith 9-17-1-164. West Valley: McKinstry 8-21-1-53.
RECEIVING - Juneau-Douglas: Nauer 5-90, Perkins 3-24, Alex Fagerstrom 1-50. West Valley: Nick Herzberg 2-18, Claypoole 2-9, Doug Templeton 1-9, Derek Templeton 1-6, Evan McDonough 1-6, Wisel 1-5.