Undoubtedly, the eyes of every high school football fan in Alaska will be focused on Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park for tonight's marquee match-up between Juneau-Douglas and visiting Palmer. The game kicks off at 8 p.m.
Both teams are 3-0 and ranked in the top five in the latest Anchorage Daily News/Coaches Poll, with the Crimson Bears second and the Moose fourth. The winner of tonight's contest at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park will also be in the driver's seat for the Railbelt Conference title.
Palmer is an exciting team that can hurt the opposition in a variety of ways.
In last weekend's 34-31 victory over Lathrop, the Moose scored on offense, defense and special teams.
If the Crimson Bears hold hopes of improving to 3-0 in conference play, they must shutdown Palmer's kick return game.
Against the Malemutes, Devon Conroy and Erik Olson each returned kicks for scores.
On offense, the Moose like to establish their running game. Look for Steel Tubbs and Conrroy to grind it out for Palmer.
JDHS defensive lineman Faifo Levale, along with linebackers Brian Maller and Josh Lehauli, will be determined to shutdown Palmer's rushing attack.
For Juneau-Douglas, an offensive key for success will be its passing game.
Palmer yielded nearly 200 yards in the air to Lathrop last week and now faces the state's most prolific offense.
JDHS junior quarterback Chris Hinkley has thrown for 807 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in just three games this season. He's also completed 48 of 77 passes - good for a 62.3 completion percentage.
Receivers Ryan Fagerstrom, Angelo Katasse and Carlo Ebron will try to keep the Moose secondary occupied while the offensive line must continue to provide excellent pass protection.
On the ground, tailback Tres Salidvar has averaged nearly 166 rushing yards per game and 10 yards per carry this season.
Saldivar is an excellent power runner who also receives terrific blocking from Lehauli and the offensive line.
A key to tonight's outcome will be how Juneau-Douglas plays in its special teams. If Palmer receives another spark from its return team, it could make for a close game at Adair-Kennedy.
If Juneau-Douglas shuts down Palmer's return game, however, look for Hinkley and the rest of the offense to enjoy a big night.
The football team isn't the only Crimson Bears squad in action as the cross country team will hold their only home meet of the year on Saturday at noon at Savikko Park.
JDHS is fresh off a powerful performance in Sitka where both the boys and girls teams won.
Juneau-Douglas sophomore Katie Krehlik demolished the field by nearly a minute last weekend and will look to build upon her success while Tyler and Wesley Dinnan look to continue their winning ways.
Over at the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium, the volleyball season officially opens tonight with three games against Sitka. The 'C' squad plays at 3:30 p.m., the junior varsity at 5:15 p.m. and the varsity at 7 p.m. The teams will then play again on Saturday.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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