The Juneau-Douglas High School football team didn't have long to lick its wounds following last Friday's loss to No. 1 West Anchorage.
The Crimson Bears take on the No. 2 East Anchorage Thunderbirds at noon Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium in a rematch of last year's state championship game. The junior varsity teams play at 9 a.m. at AFS. The varsity game will be broadcast live on KINY radio, 800-AM.
The Juneau football team (2-1 overall, 1-1 Cook Inlet Football Conference) was riding high before last weekend's 49-9 loss to West. The Crimson Bears won their first two games by a combined score of 109-13, but they made three turnovers in the first quarter - which West turned into touchdowns - and never really got anything going against the Eagles.
"It was a wake-up call, and a bummer at the same time," Juneau senior lineman Jesse Vaughn said of the loss to West.
"We're doing a lot better," said senior tight end-defensive end Mychal Hutcherson, who organized a special weightlifting session for the Crimson Bears the day after the loss. "Last week we weren't focusing. This game will be completely different."
This week, the Crimson Bears have to play undefeated East (3-0 overall, 1-0 CIFC), which beat Juneau 33-15 in last year's state championship game. Juneau beat East 42-18 the second week of last season, and the Thunderbirds lost 27-26 the next week to Chugiak. Since then, the T-Birds have won 10 straight games.
"A lot of guys are psyched to play East (because of last year)," Vaughn said. "Me, I just want to win."
"Everyone is concentrating on trying to get back our momentum," senior lineman Alika Bradley said. "We're concentrating even harder on East."
The Thunderbirds are coming off a 75-0 victory over Dimond last Saturday, Dimond's worst loss in 39 seasons and the most points scored by East in its 43-year history.
The Thunderbirds rushed for 200 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns - three by former Palmer runner Allen Franklin, two by backup quarterback Sonny Lavea and one by Ryan Stickler, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last year. Starting quarterback Chad Nading threw completed 10 of 14 passes for 304 yards and four touchdown passes to four different receivers - Tate Knutson, Kylan Robinson, Corey Macon and Dennis Wilson. East also had an interception return for a touchdown by senior safety Lasini Faaaliga.
"We've got to stop the passes," sophomore defensive lineman-offensive lineman Zach Starbard said. "We had to stop the run last week. (Two weeks ago) Service had one receiver, but this team has a bunch of receivers."
"We've got to get as much pressure on the quarterback as possible, and hope our linebackers and ends can contain them," senior offensive lineman-linebacker Jake Ritter said. "Smart, that's the way we've got to play."
While West had a huge line built for the run, East's line this year is smaller and quicker - a lot more like Juneau's line. The only returner from last year's starting line is 6-foot, 295-pound senior center Tamo Falealili, with the rest of the linemen running about 240 pounds. That's about 50 pounds lighter per player than West's line.
"They like to line all five of their linemen in tight (a pass-blocking formation)," Vaughn said. "It's harder to run from that formation. Hopefully our DBs (defensive backs) can do the job."
In this week's list of state stat leaders, Juneau senior running back Brian Felix has moved up to fourth place with 369 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries (6.8 yards a carry). East's Stickler ranks fifth with 364 yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries (11.0 yards).
Nading ranks fourth in passing yardage with 340 yards on 15-for-33 passing, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Juneau sophomore quarterback Chris Hinkley ranks sixth with 311 yards on 17-for-25 passing, four touchdowns and two interceptions, while Juneau junior Pat Kohan ranks 11th with 226 yards on 20-for-46 passing, one touchdown and two interceptions. Lavea of East ranks 14th with 186 yards on 11-for-23 passing, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Juneau junior Angelo Katasse is tied for second place in receptions with 11 catches for 215 yards and one touchdown (19.5 yards per catch), while sophomore Ryan Fagerstrom is tied for ninth with six catches for 94 yards and no receiving touchdowns (15.7 yards). The only East receiver ranked is Knutson, who is tied for fourth with 10 catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns (23.0 yards).
"It's been kind of hard," Starbard said of the West loss. "People in town are going, 'Wow, you lost 49-9 to West.' But that game's over and we're looking forward to the next game."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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