Before losing to Dimond 13-9 last Saturday, the Juneau-Douglas High School football team had a chance to see what's on this weekend's schedule.
The Crimson Bears scouted the undefeated Service Cougars' 53-21 rout over the East Anchorage Thunderbirds, a game that was 46-0 when the Juneau players left midway through the third quarter. The Cougars ran for 406 yards against East, with two players gaining more than 100 yards each and a third with 89. Service also had three players score two touchdowns apiece.
The Crimson Bears (1-1 overall, 0-1 Cook Inlet Football Conference) will have to figure out how to stop Service's running game when the two teams play in a CIFC game at 8 p.m. Friday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Juneau's JV team is on the road this weekend, playing the Sitka varsity at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sitka's Moller Field.
"We're probably not going to do East's pregame dance this week," Juneau head coach Reilly Richey joked, referring to a Samoan-style dance the Thunderbirds did before their game that infuriated the Cougars. "We've got to play the game and find out."
The Cougars (2-0 overall, 1-0 CIFC) are a much-improved team from the one that struggled to a 2-6 overall record last year. But Service showed signs of improvement during the 2001 season, and closed out its schedule by handing then-undefeated Juneau its only regular-season loss of the year, a 7-0 victory at Anchorage Football Stadium.
"They looked crisp. They're bonafide," Juneau defensive coordinator Ray Bradley said. "You can't arm tackle against them. They platoon, so they're fresh. They don't have tired players making mistakes."
Special teams-defensive backs-receivers coach Jeep Rice said the Crimson Bears game plan will be simple - "Play hard, make tackles."
Service only lost four starters from last year's team, which Service coach Jason Caldarera said helped the Cougars get off to a strong start this season. Caldarera, who is in his third year as head coach, said he's been working to change the attitude of the Cougars, who won the 1998 and 1999 state titles but also ran into discipline problems such as two hazing incidents in the 1999 season.
"We're finally seeing the results and our own identity," Caldarera said. "We've tried to build a positive program. We got off to a good start this year. But we only graduated four starters and we had a lot of kids coming back. We addressed the issues (of last year's 2-6 season) and we've learned from our mistakes. I've got a lot of respect for Coach Reilly (Richey), and Juneau's always tough at home. They've got a pretty stout defense and a young quarterback who can pass and is a running threat."
The six main offensive linemen for Service - Jeremy Robinson, J.T. Wilhelm, Jason Macrander, Scott Haley, Brian Haley and Greg Shearer - comprise one of the largest lines in the state, with an average size of a shade under 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds. Tight end Nick Fuhr is 6-3, 235.
With those horses leading the way in Service's modified Wing-T offense, tailback Ryan Ersland gained 124 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns against East; fullback Jake Staser picked up 108 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns; backup tailback Trevor Hyatt ran for 89 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown; and quarterback Garrett Parker ran for 42 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns. Parker only threw one pass, a 23-yarder to J.P. Sundquist.
"They've got a good team," Juneau senior linebacker-fullback Nick West said. "They've got their whole starting backfield back. But they only scored seven points against us last year."
"It seemed like it was more the mistakes made by East that led to the Service scores," Juneau senior defensive back-wide receiver Leo Winn said.
Near the end of the game, Service's defense looked susceptible to the pass as East quarterback Derek Laws threw for 274 yards, with 250 of those to receiver Casey Flair, who scored all three of East's touchdowns.
Juneau quarterback Chad Dubois is ranked fourth in the state in passing yardage - second among large school teams - with 14 completions in 32 attempts for 241 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Juneau's leading receiver is running back Jason Cameron, with five receptions for 44 yards, but Ernest Monts has been Juneau's deep threat (three catches for 145 yards and an 87-yard touchdown) and tight end Colin Conerton caught Juneau's only touchdown pass against Dimond. Brian Felix led Juneau's rushing attack last week with 62 yards on 15 carries, while Tony Talamai had most of Juneau's 158 return yards against Dimond.
"We had a lot of chances to win last week," said Juneau senior defensive back-wide receiver Willy Dodd, who kicked a 30-yard field goal while Juneau starting kicker Lee Sullivan was sidelined by a quadriceps injury. "We think they (the Cougars) are beatable. We're working on reducing our little mistakes."
"We're looking forward to it," Conerton said. "We beat ourselves last week. Every practice has been another step for us up the pyramid of success. We've got the best defensive coach in the league."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.