PALMER - If a play works once, there's a chance it just may work again. If you're not sure, just ask the Palmer Moose.
Palmer used a pair of nearly identical Coleman Ahrens scoring runs on back-to-back offensive plays to stun defending state champion Juneau-Douglas High School, and score a 34-19 win over the Crimson Bears in a rematch of the 2007 state title game at Machetanz Field in Palmer on Friday.
Following in the path of pulling guard Daniel Contini, right guard Evan Parsons and right tackle David Zoerb, Ahrens blasted through a hole on the right side of the Juneau defensive line and rumbled 31 yards for a score to break a 13-13 tie.
And after Ahrens recovered a fumble on the first play of Juneau's ensuing drive, the junior fullback followed the same route - behind Contini, Parsons and Zoerb - and darted through the right side to deflate the Crimson Bears with a 37-yard score.
"We executed and it worked out for the best," Contini said.
Palmer actually had three touchdowns of 30 or more yards on that right side, but one of those - a 55-yard John Scoresby run - was negated due to a questionable blocking in the back call.
Palmer head coach Rod Christiansen said the success was the result of a mid-game adjustment.
"(Juneau) was lined up to stop everything else," Christiansen said. "Our offensive coaches figured out that was there."
The Moose, who beat the Crimson Bears for just the second time in school history, scored three times in the fourth quarter to earn the win and improve to 3-0 in Railbelt Conference play.
Ahrens scored his two touchdowns within the 13-second span, and junior quarterback Dustin Silva added a score on a 1-yard plunge with 9:03 left in the contest to give Palmer the substantial lead.
Ahrens and fellow junior Brennan Bohman each topped 100 yards in the win. Bohman posted 104 yards on 20 carries and eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third time in as many weeks. Ahrens rushed for 108 yards on 12 carries, and ran for 86 yards - mostly on the right side - in the second half.
"We just felt really confident in our offensive line at that point, and the momentum had completely shifted," Palmer senior center Kevin Priestly said of Palmer's work on the ground in the second half. "And Coleman's a heck of a runner."
Junior Johnny Daly sparked the Moose with an 86-yard touchdown on the game's opening kickoff.
"That was huge for us," Contini said of the early score. "We got so excited." Daly, the 200-meter champion during the 2008 ASAA State Track and Field Championships, recovered from a slight slip at the beginning of the return and shot through the Moose wedge to burst up the left side of the field and register the game's first score.
Not only did Daly's score cause an eruption in the Palmer stands and cue the firing of the 'Moose Gooser' in the first minute of the game, but Christiansen said it gave his squad a source of confidence.
"It's like this, they beat West Valley by about 40 and we beat them in overtime," Christiansen said referring to Palmer's 13-7 double-overtime sqeaker over the Wolfpack last week as opposed to Juneau's lopsided victory over the Fairbanks team in week No. 1. "Hey, maybe we can play with them?"
Junior Zach Zegzdryn kicked the first of his two field goals - a 38-yarder - late in the quarter to give the Moose the 10-0 lead. Zegzdryn added a 35-yard field goal in the third.
After Palmer took the 10-0 lead, Juneau struck late in the first quarter with an 86-yard touchdown Alex Fagerstrom touchdown run. Lined up behind center in the shotgun set, Fagerstrom - Juneau's crafty and versatile senior - broke to the outside, weaved through traffic and sprinted down the right sideline.
Fagerstrom led the Bears with 165 yards in the game, but gained the large chunk of his yardage on that run.
All-state running back Silver Maake, who played sparingly in the second half, was held to 33 yards on 10 carries.
Fullback Jack Perkins added a late score for Juneau, diving in from 1-yard out as time expired.
The Palmer win was not only a victory in the rematch of the 2007 state title game, but Palmer earned a victory against a Juneau squad that has traditionally owned the series between the two Railbelt rivals. Palmer beat Juneau for the first time in school history at Machetanz Field during Labor Day weekend in 2006, but the Bears had defeated the Moose in three straight since that win. Juneau's success against Palmer hadn't been limited to the regular season. Juneau is the only team to beat Palmer during the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. Juneau beat Palmer in the state title game in 2005, the state quarterfinals in 2006 and again in the title game in 2007.
Contact Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at email@example.com.
Palmer 34, Juneau-Douglas 19
Friday, Machetanz Field
Palmer - Daly 86 kick return (Zegzdryn kick) 11:52.
Palmer - Zegzdryn 38 field goal, 3:53.
Juneau - Fagerstrom 86 run (Slagle kick) 2:37.
Juneau - Slagle 30 field goal, 00:05.
Juneau - Slagle 25 field goal, 7:47.
Palmer - Zegzdryn 35 field goal, 2:16.
Palmer - Ahrens 31 run (Zegzdryn kick) 11:52.
Palmer - Ahrens 37 run (Zegzdryn kick) 11:39.
Palmer - Silva 1 run (Zegzdryn kick), 9:03.
Juneau - Perkins 1 run, 00:01.
RUSHING - Juneau: A. Fagerstrom 15-165, Maake 10-33, L. Maka 6-4, Perkins 2-4, Smith 1-(-5); Palmer: Bohman 20-104, Ahrens 12-108, Silva 5-3, Daly 4-(-5), Scoresby 2-17, Swetzof 1-37, McCall 1-1.
PASSING - Juneau: A. Fagerstrom 10-19-1-194, Smith 1-1-0-9.
RECEVING - Juneau: Fenumiai 4-74, Nauer 3-55, Smith 2-43, Tompkins 2-36.
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