Thunder Mountain set off a few offensive fireworks in the first half Friday against Sitka, and then put forth a stout defensive effort in the second half to hold off the Southeast Conference rival Wolves 26-8 in the first-ever football game at Juneau's new high school.
"There (were) a lot of people here, and this was a big win," coach Bill Byouer said. "Everything is history. This was the first win at Thunder Mountain High School, which will be here for the rest of everybody's life.
"Every thing we do and say is history."
The Falcons let the Wolves know early they were a different team than the one that lost 20-6 at Sitka in the teams' season opener. After forcing a three-and-out to start the game, Thunder Mountain went 60 yards in 13 plays, with Jesse Conrad busting through the line and shedding a couple of would-be tacklers for a 20-yard touchdown run, the first ever at TMHS.
"I couldn't have done it without the blocking of the line. The first touchdown is great and all, but it's the linemen and my lead blocker, Chance (Gallates), who got me that touchdown. I was thinking glory," Conrad said about what was on his mind as he saw the end zone free and clear. "The first touchdown; I'm going for it and nothing is stopping me."
Jordan Hakala just missed a sack on the Wolves' third possession, but the Sitka quarterback fumbled and Jorge Vasquez recovered for the Falcons at their own 25-yard line. After two runs for three yards, quarterback Camden Thomas lobbed a pass to reciever Cody Grussendorf, who tipped the ball to himself, looked up and raced down the left sideline 72 yards to pay dirt for a 12-0 TMHS lead after a second failed 2-point conversion.
"It's my first year playing football and my first-ever game, and it was a big game," Grussendorf said. "I just caught the ball and didn't want to get tackled, so I ran as fast as I could. Run, run, run. It's big. The first home game in TMHS history - we won."
Then the Falcons took over at their own 45 with 1:45 remaining in the first half. Ben Hotch juked right and ran 12 yards before adding five more on the next carry. After an incomplete pass, Brian Brassfield made a phenomenal catch in double coverage with a Sitka defensive back riding him all the way down at the Wolves' 2-yard line, good for a 31-yard completion. Hotch then ran it in two plays later, and Grussendorf caught the 2-point conversion pass for a 20-0 Thunder Mountain lead heading into the break.
The Falcons opened the second half with a nine-play, 60-yard drive, with Thomas again connecting with a wide-open Grussendorf in the middle of the end zone from two yards out for a 26-0 lead early in the third quarter.
It appeared the route was on, but Sitka came right back down the field. Seven plays and 65 yards later, the Wolves connected on a play-action pass to put Sitka on the board. The Wolves faked the kick and the quarterback hit a reciever for a 2-point conversion, cutting the lead to 26-8 with 7:01 to go in the third quarter.
But then the Falcon defense stepped up, forcing a turnover on downs in Sitka's next two possesions before Gallates picked off a pass on Sitka's third possession. The Wolves final drive came up short as time expired.
Sitka coach Elliot Bruhl said Thunder Mountain has improved tremendously since Week 1.
"The Juneau offense did a great job. They were strong," he said. "Thunder Mountain obviously added greatly to their playbook and changed their offense quite a bit since we played them last time. I was just really pleased to see both teams play really, really hard, and with a lot of heart. It was a great football game. I think it's a great new tradition started with Sitka and Thunder Mountain. We split 1-1 this year, and we're looking forward to playing them again next year."
Thomas finished 10-of-16 for 181 yards and two touchdown strikes, while Grussendorf had three catches for 88 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Hotch had 97 yards and a TD on 21 carries to go with two receptions for 16 yards, while Conrad had 74 yards and a TD on 15 carries. Hotch also had a 66--yard touchdown run called back for a block in the back away from the play.
"It was a great game, with a lot of fans out there," Thomas said. "My receivers played great, our running backs were running hard and our defense stopped everything but one touchdown. We'll take it."
How They Scored
TMHS-Coonrad 20 run (run failed)
TMHS-Grussendorf 72 pass from Thomas (run failed)
TMHS-Hotch 3 run (Grussendorf pass)
TMHS-Grussendorf 2 pass from Thomas (kick failed)
SHS-No. 91 10 pass from No. 7 (pass failed)
RUSHING-Sitka-No. 32 4-33, No. 10 10-25, No. 7 17-18, Thunder Mountain-Hotch
21-97, Coonrad 15-74, Jolly 6-36, No. 45 2-6, Speck 1-(minus 1).
PASSING-Sitka-No. 7 6-17-1-81, Thunder Mountain-Thomas 10-16-0-181, Jones
RECEIVING-Sitka-No. 11 3-32, No. 84 1-30, No. 91 1-10, No. 10 1-9. Thunder
Mountain-Grussendof 3-88, Speck 4-46, Brassfield 1-30, Hotch 2-16.