Juneau's dominating defense

Crimson Bears yield just six points and 39 offensive yards in pair of victories

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2006

Two games, two wins, just six points and 39 yards allowed.

Not bad for a Juneau-Douglas High School defense that returned just two starters from last season.

"I think they're surpassing what I expected from them, above and beyond" Crimson Bears defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "I think they practice above and beyond themselves. A lot more this year is about the mentality and not mattering about the size of the guy in front of you."

After two punishing victories - a 39-0 win over Kenai Central on Aug. 12 and Friday's 69-6 demolition of Lathrop - Juneau's defensive mentality is trying to dominate the game.

Using multiple looks and fronts, Juneau-Douglas used its strength and speed to disrupt the Malemutes offense.

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JDHS forced five turnovers in the game - two interceptions and three fumble recoveries - and scored a defensive touchdown in the win.

"That's where you give credit to (line coach) Romney Tupou," Brakes said. "He's an awesome coach. I think the defense flew a little under the radar last year. I don't mind doing that again, but these were two great performances in the beginning of the year."

In trying to create defensive havoc, Brakes uses a variety of defenses and looks to apply pressure.

He also uses arguably his best athlete - junior defensive end Faifo Levale - in a variety of ways. Friday, Levale lined up at tackle, end and on the edge of the line. His ability to penetrate the backfield helped open up holes in the line where linemen Donovan Wilson, Phil Moser and Zach Heppner can exploit.

"I'm just in awe of how each individual is achieving, but more in how they're playing as a team," Brakes said. "It's not the coaches. We help them prepare, but they go out wand win the games. They get to decide how far they go this year."

Offensively, Juneau-Douglas has used underneath passing routes and a stout running game to attack defenses.

More importantly, however, is how the new offensive line has played.

They helped pave the way for 344 rushing yards against Lathrop. Juneau averaged 12.3 yards per carry Friday.

The offensive line - featuring newcomers Chris Toupin, Tyler Zimmerman, Zach Starbord, Tuavao Maake and Wilson - has allowed just one sack in two games.

"The biggest thing is that it's nice having Kenai in the first game because they like to blitz a lot," JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said. "Usually, the weakest spot on the line is picking up the blitz. In the first two games we threw 35 passes and gave up one sack, and that wasn't on the line."

Juneau-Douglas faces its most difficult test of the young season Friday against North Pole at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

The Patriots (1-1, 0-1 Railbelt) fell 25-13 to host Colony in a maelstrom on Friday. They opened the season with a 20-14 victory over visiting East Anchorage.

Led by head coach Buck Nystrom, who's won more games than any coach in state history, North Pole boasts Luke Isaacson at quarterback and junior running back Todd McCormick.

Defensively, the Patriots recorded six sacks against the Thunderbirds.

"We definitely respect their coaching staff," Brakes said. "We've got a lot of new faces and our first true test is coming Friday. We'll know where we stand as a team."

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.

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