The Juneau-Douglas High School football team had its way with its first two opponents this season, beating Palmer and Service by a combined score of 109-13.
Now the top-ranked West Anchorage Eagles come to town, and the No. 3 Crimson Bears see tonight's game as their first big test of the season. And it will be a very big test, as 25 of the 39 players on West's roster weigh more than 200 pounds, with two weighing more than 320.
"West is a good team and they've got a lot of big linemen. It'll be a challenge," said senior Alika Bradley, who is one of Juneau's heaviest linemen at 269 pounds. "The people we start have got to work hard and we need to get our conditioning up."
"It'll be our most competitive (game) so far," senior lineman Jonathan Shilling said.
Tonight's varsity game starts at 8 p.m., while the junior varsity game is at 5 p.m. at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The Crimson Bears (2-0 overall, 1-0 Cook Inlet Football Conference) are coming off a record-setting weekend where they mauled the Service Cougars 72-13 - the most points Juneau's ever scored in a varsity game. Juneau beat Palmer 37-0 in its opener.
West beat Dimond 55-0 last weekend, scoring three safeties in the first quarter (the national record for safeties in a game is five) and adding a kickoff return and a fumble return for touchdowns. The Eagles (2-0 overall, 1-0 CIFC) opened the season with a 35-12 victory over Soldotna, which plays at the small-schools level.
"This will really answer where we are this season," Juneau head coach Reilly Richey said. "I figure we have to win at least four (CIFC) games to make state, and we have the toughest schedule because we don't play South (Anchorage, the new school in the CIFC) this year."
Juneau's offense has been very impressive and balanced this season, with 541 yards rushing and 513 yards passing. Even though the Crimson Bears have gone to the subs early, several players rank among the state's leaders.
Senior running back Brian Felix, last year's top rusher in the state, ranks fifth with 266 yards (213 last week) on 29 carries and four touchdowns.
Junior Pat Kohan and sophomore Chris Hinkley have split time at quarterback, playing a half each in both games. But Hinkley is still third in passing yardage with 298 yards on 14-for-18 passing and four touchdowns, and Kohan is sixth with 215 yards on 17-for-33 passing and one touchdown. Neither has thrown an interception.
Junior wide receiver Angelo Katasse is tied for third in catches and ranks second in yardage with eight receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown.
While Juneau's offense is balanced, West's is run-dominated - although the Eagles are throwing more this year than they have in the past. The Eagles have run for 497 yards and passed for 162.
Trevoris Carter, a senior running back, is the only West player in the state's rankings and is sixth in rushing with 172 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
The Eagles also return two running backs Juneau knows well - junior Remy Martin, who ran for 201 yards against Juneau last season, and senior Montel Massenburg, who has scored touchdowns in West's last two games against the Crimson Bears. Also running the ball for West are two brothers who transferred from East's state champion team during last year's basketball season - former Angoon residents Jordan and Ozelle Jamestown.
In West's last two games against Juneau, the Eagles threw just four passes - three last year and one the year before. West threw eight times last week against Dimond. One reason West runs so much is its line, which is one of the largest in the state.
"We know they're a powerhouse team," Bradley said. "They've got those big boys on the line, and if you have big boys on the line you might as well rush the ball."
The size of West's line compared to Juneau's experienced, but smaller, line has been a concern for some Juneau coaches. The Crimson Bears already are feeling some of the nagging little injuries that follow football teams through the season - 6-foot-3, 288-pound lineman Ryan Pratt will miss tonight's game because of an ankle injury - and Richey said before the season he was worried if his smallish line might get worn out by a big team such as West.
"I've got faith in my guys," Juneau line coach Roger Cox said. "We ran 75 plays on West last year, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
"We've got to use our speed and quickness, and not get frustrated," freshman lineman Faifo Levale said. "We've got to keep our heads."
Last year Felix ran for 268 yards against West, but didn't score a touchdown as the Crimson Bears lost 21-7. West beat Juneau 24-14 two years ago to end a 27-game losing streak.
"We've scored three touchdowns in two years against them," senior wide receiver-defensive back C.J. Keys said. "Last year we self-destructed. We got in their red zone five times and scored once. Anytime you have a guy rush for 270 yards and don't get a touchdown, you know it isn't your day."
Juneau isn't the only team looking at tonight's game as a big test. The Eagles, who lost out on a state berth last year in the last week of the season, also see this game as a yardstick.
"We'll find out how good we really are Friday night," West coach Bob Garman told the Anchorage Daily News earlier this week. "We'll be playing out of our comfort zone. Juneau's fans are right on top of you, and they let you know who their favorite team is."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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