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WASILLA - If Juneau-Douglas High School's Silver Maake makes a big play, more often than not, it's on the offensive side of the ball.
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But on Saturday, Maake made the play of the game on defense.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore stuffed Wasilla's two-point conversion attempt with 2 minutes and 36 seconds remaining in regulation to help the Crimson Bears hold onto a 13-12 victory over the Warriors during a downpour at Veterans Memorial Field.
After Wasilla junior Chris Crane scored his second touchdown of the game to cut the score to 13-12, the Warriors (3-2, 1-2 Railbelt Conference) opted to give the ball back to their top running back and go for the win.
"(Silver) read that sweep coming and just came up hard, smacked that guy and knocked that ball loose," Juneau-Douglas head coach Bill Chalmers said. "That was a game-saver."
On the conversion, Crane took the ball and ran toward the right corner of the end zone. As he made the move toward the goal line, Maake came in to make the hit. The contact sent the wet ball up into the air.
Even though the Warriors came just inches short of upsetting a squad that has advanced to the large-schools state semifinals in each of the last four seasons, Wasilla head coach Jim Shetter has no regrets about the choice to go for the victory.
"The way we were executing our offense, I think it was the appropriate call," Shetter said.
And if the Warriors were going for the win, Shetter and his coaching staff wanted to get to the ball into Crane's hands.
"He's our money guy," Shetter said.
Wasilla used its best drive of a rainy afternoon to set up the final score.
The Warriors used 16 plays to chew up more than five minutes of the fourth quarter, and notched four of its five total first downs on that drive.
Wasilla senior tight end Shane Green recorded two of his four catches on the drive - both on third down - to keep the chains moving.
Midway through the drive, Wasilla used a bit of trickery to get down the field. Facing a potentially devastating 4th-and-12, Crane took the pitch. But instead of running, Crane threw the ball back across the field and found quarterback Adrese LaVern wide open for a 19-yard gain.
Five plays later, Crane took a swing pass from LaVern and rumbled 15 yards for the score. Crane broke a pair of tackles on the way and dove the final two yards into the end zone.
"That was a nice drive at the end of the game. That tells you, they're a team on the rise," Chalmers said. "Wasilla four or five years ago probably wouldn't have a drive like that."
Wasilla used a similar play to take the lead in the final moments of the first half.
With less than a minute left in the second quarter, Crane caught another LaVern swing pass and went 55 yards for the score.
"Chris Crane probably had the best game he's had as a varsity running back," Shetter said.
Juneau scored both of its touchdowns - a pair of scoring strikes from quarterback Ryan "Bubba" Larson to Alex Fagerstrom - within a three-minute span in the third quarter.
Led by Maake, the Crimson Bears (5-0, 4-0 Railbelt) have used their running game to stay undefeated. But in the second half against the Warriors, Chalmers and his team made an adjustment toward the pass. Chalmers said he and the Juneau coaches took the conditions of the mud bog known as Veterans Memorial Field into consideration when making changes to the game plan.
"We knew we had to get something going in the passing game," Chalmers said. "We needed to take advantage of the nicer part of the field. The sidelines were nice. The middle of the field was so sloppy, we realized were weren't going to be able to grind it out inside."
The adjustments worked, and Fagerstrom caught four Larson passes for 131 yards in the third quarter - including touchdown catches of 46 and 14 yards.
Larson finished the game 7-for-9 with 201 yards.
Maake ran for 85 of his 91 yards in the first half, but Chalmers said Juneau felt it was also a better matchup to go with the pass.
"Maybe on a different day, on a different field, we could have run a little better," Chalmers said. "(Wasilla's) got big kids, and they're strong."
JDHS 13, Wasilla 12
JDHS 0 0 13 0 - 13
Wasilla 6 0 0 6 - 12>
Wasilla - Crane 55 pass from LaVern (kick failed) 00:24.
Juneau - A. Fagerstrom 46 pass from Larson (kick failed) 4:27.
Juneau - A. Fagerstrom 14 pass from Larson (Smith kick) 1:24.
Wasilla - Crane 15 pass from LaVern (run failed) 2:36.
RUSHING - Juneau: S. Maake 20-91, A. Fagerstrom 11-39, Larson 4-2, N. Wilson 3-4, D. Wilson 1-(-1). Wasilla: Crane 18-(-4), Russel 8-39, Chafin 4-3, Katchinska 1-3, LaVern 1-1.
PASSING - Juneau: Larson 7-9-0-201; Wasilla: LaVern 7-14-0-116, Crane 1-1-0-14.
RECEIVING - Juneau: A. Fagerstrom 4-131, T. Maake 2-46, West 1-24; Wasilla: Green 4-35, Crane 2-80, LaVern 1-14, Chafin 1-1.