It might look as if the Juneau-Douglas High School football team got pushed around a little bit Friday night, according to the final statistics from the Service Cougars' 23-13 victory over the Crimson Bears at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
However, just two plays made a significant difference in the final score.
The Crimson Bears were outrushed 266 yards to 30, as Service's mammoth offensive line paved the way for two 100-yard rushers - fullback Jake Staser with 107 and tailback Ryan Ersland with 100. Still, it was two second-half mistakes that gave Service the real advantage.
Juneau's first mistake came with a little more than two minutes to go in the third quarter, when the Crimson Bears were driving and had the ball first-and-goal at the Service 7-yard line. Quarterback Chad Dubois faded back to pass, and his throw was intercepted at the 1-yard line by Service's Paul Devasconcellos to kill the drive.
The second mistake came early in the fourth quarter, when Service's drive stalled near midfield. Devasoncellos went back to punt, and Juneau's Mike Winters fumbled the kick. Service's James Kelly recovered the ball at the Juneau 3-yard line, and one play later quarterback Garrett Parker scored his second touchdown of the game to give the Cougars a 23-7 lead.
"We gave them one and they took one," Juneau defensive end-tight end-punter Colin Conerton said. "You can't think like that, but without those two plays it's 20-16 Juneau. We definitely showed some improvement and we'll continue to show improvement. We're going to start winning some close games. We gave away 14 points, but that's a darn good team."
"It was a rough game, but we had fun," Dubois said. "They didn't expect us to be as close as we were, and we need for them to go back up to Anchorage and spread the word around. All of our games have been close. We just made a couple of mistakes. But we're getting stronger. If we'd played like this when we played Kenai (an 8-6 victory two weeks ago), that game wouldn't have been close."
The Crimson Bears (1-2 overall, 0-2 Cook Inlet Football Conference) struggled on defense during Service's first drive, as the Cougars (3-0 overall, 2-0 CIFC) marched 75 yards for Parker's first touchdown of the game - a 12-yard run off tackle after faking a handoff to Ersland. The drive's first 60 yards were picked up by Staser, who carried five times before being shaken up and having to sit out a couple of plays.
"It was just an option play, and I rode the fullback all the way into the end zone," Parker said.
But Juneau took advantage of a pair of Service turnovers to tie the score late in the first quarter.
When Juneau's second drive of the game got halted after two sacks by Nick Fuhr, Conerton's punt was fumbled away by Ersland, with Juneau's Leo Winn making the recovery so Juneau could continue its drive. Conerton had to punt for real four plays later, but on Service's second play Staser fumbled and Juneau's Charlie Moline recovered the ball on the Service 30-yard line. Two plays later Brian Felix tied the score with the first varsity touchdown of his career, an 11-yard run.
"It was just a huge hole and I got touched once, by the safety," Felix said. "I thought it would go back-and-forth. We should be 2-0 in the conference, but mistakes have hurt us. We got better compared to the Dimond game (a 13-9 loss last week). I'm looking forward to a good week of practice."
Juneau's defense started to figure out Service's running plays, so the Cougars took to the air for their next score. Midway through the second quarter Parker threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Fuhr at tight end, who cut left and escaped a late tackle by Juneau's Willy Dodd to make the score 14-7.
"It's always a confidence builder when you score on your first drive, but we knew we needed to focus after that," Fuhr said. "I knew I was in (the end zone) when I saw Bryan Jones make a beautiful downfield block. This was definitely the toughest team we've played this year."
"Juneau gave our offensive line a run for it," Parker said. "That's the best anyone's blitzed against us."
The Cougars used another pass, this time a 59-yarder to Matt Akers, to set up their first score of the third quarter. When their drive finally stalled, kicker J.P. Sundquist booted a 31-yard field goal to make it 17-7 Service.
That set up the series of plays that included Juneau's two critical mistakes, which gave Service a 23-7 lead with 10:20 to play. Juneau drove well on its next drive, but turned the ball over on downs when the drive stalled at Service's 28-yard line. The Cougars went three-plays-and-out on its drive, which gave Juneau good field position for its final drive.
Dubois completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Henderson with 2:15 left, with Henderson breaking left-to-right across the middle from his tight end position to catch the first TD pass of his career. Even though the game had already been decided, the Crimson Bears said the late touchdown will help as they prepare to play unbeaten Bartlett this Saturday in Anchorage.
"It was a little bittersweet," Henderson said of the score. "Chad had been throwing some good balls and I felt like I should have caught a couple more earlier in the game. We're putting our offense and defense together. We had to get better after our first series, and we did. Everyone expected to win. Service is an awesome team."
"I think we definitely played better than we did against Dimond," Dodd said. "We had a couple of missed scores, but we were in it until the end. This gave us a lot of confidence. Our first drive got stuffed, but we're rolling with the punches now. I'm hoping we'll keep getting better and start winning some games."
In other Southeast action this weekend, Sitka varsity quarterback Travis Bradshaw withstood heavy pressure from the Juneau-Douglas JV's defensive line to connect on a couple of scores with running back Dennis Houston Jr. as the Wolves claimed a 42-14 victory Saturday at Sitka's Moller Field. The Ketchikan varsity was supposed to play in Campbell River, British Columbia, on Saturday, but no score was available.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
COUGARS 23, CRIMSON BEARS 13
Friday's game from Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park
SERVICE 7 7 3 6 - 23
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 7 0 0 6 - 13
Service - Parker 12 run (Sundquist kick), 5:40.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 11 run (Sullivan kick), 3:02.
Service - Fuhr 63 pass from Parker (Sundquist kick), 7:44.
Service - FG, Sundquist 31, 7:03.
Service - Parker 3 run (kick blocked), 10:20.
Juneau-Douglas - Henderson 18 pass from Dubois (run failed), 2:15.
First downs 14 10
Rushes-yards 54-266 26-30
Passing yards 135 144
Return yards 69 127
Comp-Att-Int 3-10-0 9-20-1
Fumbles-lost 4-2 3-1
Sacked-yards lost 2-14 6-41
Penalties-yards 9-65 5-45
RUSHING - Service: Staser 17-107, Ersland 17-100, Parker 11-28, A. Jones 3-14, Devasconcellos 1-11, Mobley 1-9, Malone 2-5, Hyatt 1-3, T. Jones 1-(-9). Juneau-Douglas: Felix 11-41, Cameron 3-11, N. West 1-3, Dubois 11-(-25).
PASSING - Service: Parker 3-10-0 - 135. Juneau-Douglas: Dubois 9-20-1 - 144.
RECEIVING - Service: Fuhr 1-63, Akers 1-59, Hyatt 1-13. Juneau-Douglas: Cameron 2-51, Monts 2-45, Henderson 2-37, N. West 2-12, Clair 1-(-1).
MISSED FIELD GOALS - None.