Juneau head coach Bill Chalmers' triskaidekaphobia was kicking in after his squad trounced Wasilla 35-7 Friday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. After all, it was 13 straight wins for the Crimson Bears dating back to the beginning of last season.
A week after manhandling an overmatched West Valley team 45-7 last week in Fairbanks, the top-ranked Crimson Bears (2-0, 2-0) looked to a stronger and bigger team in the fifth-ranked Warriors (1-1, 0-1) who defeated Chugiak last week to open their season.
"I was scared to death before this game," Juneau head coach Bill Chalmers said. "I mean those kids are huge in Wasilla. What are they feeding those people up there?"
Wasilla came to town with several players listed 270 pounds or more on the roster, but their size was no match for the quickness and athleticism of Juneau. The Bears, led by junior Buzzy Hotch, controlled the line for much of the game, stifling the Warriors' running game.
"The line played way better than a week ago and made some good blocks," Juneau offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said. "It was a good effort."
Juneau opened scoring at the 2:59 mark of the first quarter with the first of two touchdown hookups by quarterback Dakotah Smith and receiver Alex Fagerstrom. Fagerstrom found redemption after dropping a perfectly-placed touchdown pass earlier in the quarter to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
The Bears struck again early in the second quarter on a 3-yard run by Silver Maake to make it 14-0, capitalizing on great field position after Wasilla snapped the ball over the punter's head on the previous series.
Maake had 122 yards from scrimmage on the night - 80 rushing and 42 receiving. Lincoln Maka was also effective in the backfield, rushing 13 times for 78 yards.
Juneau scored again on its next possession on a touchdown pass from Smith to Jack Perkins. Perkins caught the short pass near the left side line of scrimmage and weaved his way 18 yards to give the Bears a 21-0 lead
Wasilla's size advantage seemed to wear down the Bears in the third quarter as both teams battled back and forth in the middle of the field.
Penalties on key plays also hurt the Bears on a number of drives. Midway through the first quarter a quarterback draw by Dakotah Smith for 35 yards was negated by a Bears penalty. In the second quarter, a short Wasilla punt would have given the Bears field position near Wasilla's 30, but a late hit backed them up near midfield.
"We had a lot of penalties and some of those were iffy, but some that were legitimate penalties, and we need to clean up that stuff," Sjoroos said. "Two guys going in motion and incidental facemask - those are the kinds of things we can fix. We're not good enough to overcome the 10 and 15 yarders."
The Warriors got on the scoreboard with 9:46 to go in the game on a 30-yard pass from backup quarterback Cody Pfeifer to Chris Bydlon. It was Pfeifer's first series after taking over for injured starting quarterback Adrese Lavern and brought Wasilla to 21-7.
The Bears ended might have become a close contest when Smith and Fagerstrom connected on a nifty 35 yard strike with just under four minutes to go to give the Bears a 28-7 lead.
Fagerstrom ended the game with three catches for 62 yards to go along with a 21-yard run. Smith finished the game completing 10 of 22 passes for 143 yards, three touchdown passes and an interception. He also gained 57 yards on 11 carries.
"I just said that our kids are just going to get worn down, and it looked like in the second half that we started to get worn down," Chalmers said. "But they reached down to another level and played as well at end of the game as they were playing at the beginning. It was a very rewarding win for us all."
Sophomore Mathew Maka added another score for Juneau with a minute to go with a 22-yard interception for a touchdown. Seconds later, he recorded another interception on Wasilla's next series.
"I joked with Matthew Maka that he ran one back for a touchdown then picked off another one," Chalmers said. "I said you're getting a little greedy aren't you in your old age. But that's what we want - playing just as hard at the end of the game as they did the rest of it."
Chalmers' unexplainable fear of the number 13 may have something to do with next week's opponent as Blackfoot, Idaho, travels to Juneau for Friday night's matchup. Blackfoot is the defending 4A state champs ranked No. 6 in Idaho's preseason poll.
"It's always fun to bring someone up from Lower 48 because it teaches our kids that there is a level of football that they may not run into every week."
Jeff Kasper is a freelance writer and former Juneau Empire sportswriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday night lights: Juneau-Douglas High School's football team waits on the sideline under the lights of Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field before Friday's game vs. Wasilla.
Running: Juneau-Douglas High School quarterback Dakotah Smith runs for a long gain on a quarterback keeper in Friday's game vs. Wasilla.
Juneau-Douglas High School's Alex Fagerstrom catches a long touchdown pass during Friday's gave vs. Wasilla. Wasilla's Chris Bydlon defends.
Juneau-Douglas High School's Jack Perkins scores a touchdown during Friday's game vs. Wasilla. Wasilla's Chris Bydlon defends.
Juneau-Douglas High School running back Lincoln Maka makes a long run vs. Wasilla during Friday's game at Adair-Kennidy Memorial Park.
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