FAIRBANKS - The prep football team from Juneau-Douglas High School played its first Railbelt Conference road game Saturday evening at Patriot Pride Field in North Pole, and the Crimson Bears made it one to remember.
Juneau (3-0) used a dominant third quarter and got 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Tres Saldivar to subdue the defending large-schools state champion Patriots, 36-13.
Crimson Bears junior quarterback Chris Hinkley completed 17 of 27 passes for 188 yards, connecting on TD tosses of 20 and six yards en route to the win.
Big fullback Josh Lehauli tallied 32 yards and a TD run over six carries for the Crimson Bears. He also caught a TD pass.
"North Pole has a really good team," Lehauli said. "They came at us early and we had to overcome a lot of mistakes. It was a good game."
Patriots coach Buck Nystrom said there was a noticeable difference between the two squads.
"We're a young, immature team," Nystrom said. "Against a good team like Juneau you can't afford to make a single mistake. They were way too mature for us."
Juneau struck first and never relinquished the lead. North Pole (1-2) went four-and-out on its first possession, and the Crimson Bears needed just four plays to make it 8-0.
Saldivar busted up the middle for 19 yards, came back with six more, then Hinkley spotted Patriots cornerback Ricky Culver in one-on-one coverage against wideout Ryan Fagerstrom.
Hinkley threw a fade to Fagerstrom, who hauled it in on the Patriots 2-yard line before Saldivar capped the scoring drive with a two-yard burst.
"North Pole is by far the best team we've played yet this year," said first-year Juneau head coach Bill Chalmers. "They're so well coached. North Pole should be proud of what they have up here. They're a fun team to play."
The Patriots responded with a one-yard TD blast by Jacob Borkovec, set up by Ricky Culver's interception and 39-yard return. Just like that the Patriots were back in the game down 8-7.
About five minutes into the second quarter, Juneau completed a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass from Hinkley to Angelo Katasse. The same pair hooked up on the 2-point conversion and Juneau led 16-7.
Again North Pole answered, this time with a seven play drive that ended on Borkovec's magnificent 19-yard TD scamper. Powell's extra-point kick attempt was wide, as was his 32-yard field goal attempt that ended the first half with Juneau leading 16-13.
The Crimson Bears came out in the third quarter and took over the game.
Taking advantage of superior size and quickness on both lines, Juneau wore down the Patriots by running 26 plays on offense compared to 11 for North Pole in the quarter.
In a four-play scoring drive late in the quarter, Saldivar ran four straight times and piled up five, seven, 30 and nine yards before scoring. Then Lehauli's three-yard rushing score was followed by another 2-point completion between Hinkley and Katasse and Juneau was ahead 30-13.
Lehauli caught a six-yard TD pass from Hinkley and completed the scoring with a little less than five minutes left in the game.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Lehauli plays fullback and linebacker for Juneau, just like Jamie Hurlburt played those positions for North Pole last year, with a strong physical presence and a hard-nosed attitude. Chalmers credited Lehauli with tremendous blocks that unleashed Saldivar and opened up huge chunks of yardage.
"We still have a lot to overcome," said Lehauli. "We're just building up (momentum) slowly, trying to take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead like we've done in the past."
North Pole's offense had moments of success and finished with 162 rushing yards. Borkovec led the way with 71 of those yards off of 20 carries, while Sheyenne Graywood (six for 30 yards) and Todd McCormick (six for 61 yards) accounted for the rest of the North Pole rushing attack.
"Our season lies ahead of us, not behind us," said Nystrom. "The next two games are everything. We've got to keep doing what we do well. We've been here before."