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After each victory, and on a few other occasions, Juneau-Douglas High School football players are given helmet stickers with the slogan "RIENG." These stickers help remind the second-ranked Crimson Bears that "Respect Is Earned, Not Given."
The Crimson Bears are starting to fill up their helmets with stickers, but the Juneau players feel they are still the Rodney Dangerfields of Alaska's football, despite a 4-0 overall and 3-0 Cook Inlet Football Conference record to open the season.
Juneau hosts No. 4 East Anchorage at 7 p.m. Friday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park in a key CIFC game. East (3-1 overall, 1-1 CIFC) was the state's No. 1 team until it was beaten by defending state champion Dimond 35-18 last Friday. Dimond took over the top spot in the state coaches poll after beating East.
"They'll be fired up," Juneau senior center Bret Russell said of the visiting Thunderbirds. "They made a few mistakes and that killed them."
"Statistically, East won that game," Juneau senior quarterback Brett Fairchild said.
East was missing standout running back Antoine McLeod to a sprained ankle last Friday, and East coach Roger Spackman said he's unclear how healthy McLeod will be for Friday's game in Juneau. McLeod is one of the fastest runners in the state, but his absence wasn't the reason East lost to Dimond. East had a botched snap on a punt and two more punts were blocked by the Lynx, and Dimond came back to score after each missed play.
"We had some mistakes and that gave them (the Lynx) some touchdowns," Spackman said.
With McLeod sitting out last week's game, sophomore quarterback Derek Laws handled the bulk of East's running chores as he ran for a team-high 55 yards on nine carries. David Melvin gained 31 yards and Tui Muai ran for 30 as East's next-highest rushers. Laws completed seven of 24 passes for 73 yards and one interception, with four of the passes going to wide receiver Casey Flair for 46 yards.
East's three touchdowns last week all came in the second half, with Charleston Macon running the kick-off back 85 yards for a score, Laws scrambling 44 yards for a touchdown and hitting Flair with a 16-yard scoring toss on the game's final play.
On defense, East players to watch are Willi Pili at linebacker, Eti "Junior" Faaaliga at free safety, Levant Logo at linebacker and Auno Filoialli at defensive end, Spackman said.
While East had been the state's top-ranked team until this week, Spackman said he is aware of Juneau's weapons.
"I've got great respect for their passing game, and their running back is pretty good, too," Spackman said. "Playing in Juneau will be hard for us."
Juneau is coming off a huge 31-20 victory over then-No. 2 Chugiak last Saturday. Juneau tied for fifth before the Chugiak game.
Fairchild threw for a school-record 249 passing yards, with three touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. Jacob Dutton caught his state-leading seventh touchdown pass of the season last week and had 165 yards on four catches, while tight end/defensive end Jake Miller caught a touchdown pass and fullback Sione Tupou caught another. Tailback Jason Cameron ran for 69 yards to lead Juneau's rushing game.
On defense, Miller and lineman Zac Campbell dominated Chugiak's offensive line and the Crimson Bears recorded six sacks. Kicker Lee Sullivan also set a school record with a 41-yard field goal, the first of his high school career.
"We need to stay focussed," Miller said. "We need to play confident and strong this weekend. We need to play 48 minutes of good, Juneau football. We've still got a lot of respect to earn."
Juneau's junior varsity team will also host a home game this weekend as the Crimson Bears JV host the Ketchikan varsity at 7 p.m. Saturday at Adair-Kennedy.