Punting, special teams and field position are definitely not the most exciting words associated with football. But if those three seemingly innocuous phrases come together for your team, it can lead to one big word - momentum.
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Juneau-Douglas High School maintained its perfect record with the help of two first-quarter blocked punts and solid field position to top North Pole 41-0 Friday.
"That was just phenomenal," Crimson Bears offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said. "That's what's great about games like that against a tough opponent. You seize on those things early and it changes the game even before it's halfway done."
Up 8-0 early against a tough foe, JDHS used its special teams to take over.
Defensive lineman Tyler Zimmerman busted through the Patriots' line to block Dane Ebanez' punt at the North Pole 10. Faifo Levale gobbled up the loose ball and rumbled in for the score. One Jesse West extra point later and the score was 15-0.
That one big play shifted momentum in Juneau-Douglas' favor. As the Crimson Bears rode that wave to new heights, the same momentum proved to be quicksand to North Pole.
"We dedicate the first hour (of practice) to warm-ups and then special teams every day," JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "It's a momentum changer, just like a defensive stop. Momentum is on your side and you take advantage of it."
Facing a fourth down on their ensuing possession, Ebanez fumbled the snap and fell on the ball at his own 21. One play later, Chris Hinkley hit Daryl Lew for a TD. Another extra point followed and JDHS ran the score to 22-0 in less than nine minutes.
Hinkley closed the first quarter with a two-yard TD run to give JDHS a 29-0 lead after the first quarter.
"Turnovers, defensive stops and great special teams - that gets you going," Brakes said. "That's why you need to focus every second of every game. You lapse one time, you can create a big play for their opponent and that can carry over."
The big special teams plays led to terrific field position for JDHS. The Crimson Bears' average starting field position was North Pole's 48.
JDHS translated the field position into five offensive TDs, to go with Levale's special teams score.
"I'm totally happy with the way were going," Sjoroos said. "It's nice to see that goal line in front of you."
Up next for JDHS (3-0, 2-0 Railbelt) is a state-championship rematch at Palmer (2-1, 1-0).
The Moose routed Lathrop 47-6 on Saturday, as senior Hakken Bohman rushed for 151 yards and five TDs on 18 carries. Palmer defeated West 40-20 to open the season and then was upset by small-school Soldotna 10-7 on Aug. 18 in a rainstorm.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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