Junior Matthew Maka put the Crimson Bears on his back and carried short-handed Juneau-Douglas to a 36-7 win over Railbelt Conference rival Palmer on Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Maka's performance was one for the record book as he carried the ball 32 times for 301 yards and four touchdowns. He also had a key interception that set up a Bears scoring drive just before the half to put a lock on the momentum for JDHS heading into the break.
I had my cousin Villy (Tupou) blocking for me at fullback, and I got my cousin Lawrence (Fenumiai) at tight end blocking for me, and I followed the hole," Maka said.
2008 state defensive player of the year and starting fullback Jack Perkins was out with an injury, so Maka stepped in and filled the void.
Jack talked to me 1-on-1 and told me I had to step up, so I did for him," he said. "The line made nice holes for me, nice cutbacks for me, and I took them."
Maka broke a few tackles and raced toward the right sideline for a 47-yard gain on the Bears' first play from scrimmage, setting Juneau-Douglas up at the Palmer 33. On third-and-3, Maka picked up a first down at the Moose 15-yard line. He then sealed the deal with a 10-yard touchdown run up the middle, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead with 6:25 to go in the first quarter.
Palmer returned the favor after Jim McCall ran right and cut back across the grain to midfield, running all the way to the Bears' 29. But on third-and-1, Chris Holloway stuffed the run and recovered a Palmer fumble to give JDHS the ball back at its own 21. After Palmer recovered a Silver Maake fumble, Brennan Bohman took a fake punt 50 yards to the Bears' 30 with 10 minutes to go in the first half, but a fumble, recovered by Palmer, and a false start made it second-and-20. Palmer quarterback Dustin Silva connected with McCall for a 19-yard gain, just short of a first down, and Silva went up the middle with a quarterback sneak for a first down at the JDHS 19.
La Fafita dropped Bohman on first down for no gain, but McCall followed his blockers and ran it in from 15 yards out on third down to tie the game with 6:35 to go in the first half after a Zach Zegzdryn PAT.
JDHS quarterback Phillip Fenumiai's pass on second down was intercepted by Jameson Corbin and returned to the Bears' 38, but Maka intercepted a Bohman flea flicker, giving JDHS the ball back at its own 27.
Juneau-Douglas marched down the field over the last 3-plus minutes of the first half, and Maka ran it in from the 14 with about 30 seconds to go to push the Bears ahead 14-7 heading into the break.
"That really took the wind out of us," Palmer coach Rod Christensen said. "We have a lot of young guys riding too many ups and downs, and we just need to get it back together and get in there and battle. We didn't do that very well in the third quarter."
JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said Maka's interception and the ensuing touchdown drive was the key stretch of the game.
"I think in the years that we've played these guys, who ever had the lead at half-time won every game," he said. "We've been down by one and lost, up by seven and held on to win. It's just whoever has that lead at half-time usually wins the game. It held true tonight and I just can't say enough about these kids."
Maka took a carry 16 yards to the Moose 20, and then ran it in on the very next play down the left sideline. He then stuck in a two-point conversion to push the Bears ahead 22-7 with six minutes to go in the third quarter.
Holloway picked off a Palmer pass to set the Bears up at the Moose 31, and Maka again ran it in on the very next play as the route was on, 29-7, with 4:30 left in the third.
Christensen said Maka came out of nowhere, but Sjoroos wasn't surprised.
"Matthew's been a great player ever since he's been the in youth leagues, and we've had some good running backs ever since he's been in high school so he hasn't been that guy that's had to carry the load," he said. "But with Jack being out and Eric Fagerstrom, there was a lot on Matthew tonight. Just a really awesome performance."
Justin Brooks came on in the second half and rushed for 131 yards on seven carries, including the game's final touchdown, a 46-yard run with 36 second to go in the game. Holloway had and interception and a fumble recovery, and La Fafita lead the defensive charge with eight tackles.
JDHS won the JV game 27-8.
How they scored
JDHS - Maka 10 run (Hoffman kick)
PHS - McCall 15 run (Zegzdryn kick)
JDHS - Maka 14 run (Hoffman kick)
JDHS - Maka 20 run (Maka 2 run)
JDHS - Maka 31 run (Hoffman kick)
JDHS - Brooks 46 run (Hoffman kick)
RUSHING-Palmer-B.Bohman 18-124, J.McCall 7-100, C. Ahrens 6-14, D. Silva 8-2. Juneau-Douglas-M.Maka 32-301, J.Brooks 7-131, S. Maake 8-41.
PASSING-Palmer-Silva 2-10-2-33, Bohman-0-1-1-0, Juneau-Douglas-P.Fenumiai-2-4-1-(minus 2).