The Juneau-Douglas High School football team had just tied its record for highest-ranking ever in the Anchorage Daily News/Alaska State High School Football Coaches Polls, with a No. 2 ranking in the large schools poll released on Monday.
So how did the Crimson Bears celebrate during Monday night's practice? With running, lots and lots of running.
"The first thing we had to do was run the swagger out of them," Juneau head coach Reilly Richey said after his team's workout featured crossfields, 110s and other running drills.
"We're really trying to guard ourselves from being too prideful," Richey added. "We don't have the type of team that can just go out and dominate the other team. Our penalties are not near what they should be for the No. 2 team, and we still need a more consistent running game. We've been fortunate with some of our breakdowns on defense. We had that one play against Bartlett, where our defender was beaten if they'd caught the pass, and we had a similar play against Chugiak. We've been fortunate."
The Crimson Bears (4-0 overall, 3-0 in the Cook Inlet Football Conference) moved up to the second spot this week after knocking off last week's No. 2, Chugiak, 31-20 on Saturday. Juneau was tied for fifth, with Palmer, a week ago. Juneau picked up two of the 10 first-place votes and had 38 points in the poll.
The ranking matches a No. 2 in the polls midway through the 1999 season, but Juneau's ranking slipped the next week after a 31-0 loss to Chugiak. That year Juneau eventually reached the semifinals of the state playoffs, where the Crimson Bears lost to the eventual state champion Service Cougars.
But Richey didn't seem too excited about the polls.
"What do you think of those polls? They're pretty silly," Richey said. "I don't care who's No. 1, and I'm sorry to see us as high as No. 2."
Juneau only trails defending state champion Dimond (3-1 overall, 2-0 CIFC) in this week's poll. Dimond moved up two spots in the poll after it knocked off last week's No. 1 team, East Anchorage, 35-18 on Friday. Dimond had eight first-place votes and 47 points in the poll. Rounding out the poll were West Valley (4-0 overall), which rose a spot to No. 3 with 30 points, East at No. 4 with 21 points and Chugiak at No. 5 with six points.
East (3-1 overall, 1-1 CIFC) had been the only team to hold the top spot in this year's polls, until losing last weekend. The Thunderbirds will play Juneau at 7 p.m. Friday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
"Our schedule is very hard," Richey said. "We play East this week, and we're still trying to get into the playoffs. Last year three (CIFC) wins didn't get us into the state playoffs, so we're really looking to get our fourth win. We have everything to lose, and everything to gain this week. We feel we can clinch a playoff spot, and maybe get a home playoff game, and we've got our 11-game home winning streak on the line."
In the small schools poll, defending state champion Nikiski retained its No. 1 ranking after knocking off Service 40-20 on Saturday. The Bulldogs (3-1 overall) picked up six of the poll's eight first-place votes and had 38 points in the poll. Nikiski's only loss was 13-7 to Chugiak, with the loss coming on the last play of the game.
Undefeated Kenai Central (4-0) picked up the poll's other two first place votes and 30 points for the No. 2 spot. Skyview had 23 points for the No. 3 spot in the poll, Homer was No. 4 with 14 points and Houston was No. 5 with nine points. Sitka (2-2) had five points and was in the others receiving votes category.