Thunder Mountain is off to Washington this week to take on the 3A Renton High School Indians, with the Falcons looking to improve on their unblemished 5-0 record.
Renton, a school of about 1,100 kids, lost its season opener last week, 55-34 to 2A Cedarcrest, out of Duvall, Wash. The Indians finished 6-4 last year.
The Falcons haven't exactly been tested of late. TMHS has won all five of its games by an average of 23 points, with only one game, a 23-12 win over Homer on Aug. 13, ending within two touchdowns. The Thunder Mountain starters haven't seen much second-half action so far this year.
Coach Bill Byouer said he's eager to see his starters tested throughout a full game.
"We're going there to show our kids that we need to play hard. I expect our guys to go four quarters and I'm hoping to see some positives," he said. "Renton is a bigger school with bigger kids, and a good program. I think it's going to be a great test for us coming back to face Ketchikan and then a California school (Eureka).
"That should get us ready for the playoffs. But we definitely have to work on our game against these big schools."
Sitting at 3-0 in conference, the Falcons are a virtual lock for the Southeast Conference's first-ever state playoff bid.
Byouer said he wants his team pay a full game without letting its foot off the accelerator.
"I want to see us go four quarters and see positives through all four," he said. "I want to see our line open up holes and see if we can step up to the challenge."
One thing he doesn't want to see?
"We're not going there to lose. We're going to be challenged. We want to get these kids fine-tuned. I want them to get punched, and I want them to punch back," Byouer said, figuratively speaking.
The Falcons and the Indians kick off at 7 p.m. tonight.
A in over Lathrop secures playoff berth for JDHS
Juneau-Douglas' goal is to win this season's Railbelt Conference championship, and then focus on state. but the team's full attention this week is dedicated to one thing: Beat Lathrop at home, earn a playoff spot.
The Crimson Bears (4-1, 3-1) square off with the winless Malemutes (0-6, 0-4) tonight at 8 p.m. for the second straight week at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, where JDHS is now 2-0 on the year.
Juneau-Douglas returned home last week with a 31-14 victory over Wasilla after three straight road tilts.
JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos said Lathrop isn't to be taken lightly simply because of their record. The Malemutes have good athletes who can burn you if you let them get into open space, he said.
"They've got some athletes and some kids that they like to get out on the perimeter," he said. "They can do some shotgun stuff and spread you out to try to get some mismatches with their speedy guys."
The Malemutes' speed is a concern after the Bears were admonished last week in the post-game speech for missing tackles against Wasilla, something that can't happen against Lathrop.
"I think that's going to be something that really hurts us down the stretch if we don't tackle," Sjoroos said. "All of the coaches have been really focused on that this week and coach Al (Fenumiai), his defensive mindset is aggressive football. He takes it the hardest when the kids aren't tackling well so he's been spending time each day going back to basics to get everybody to secure the tackle first, and go for the big hit later.
"I think we've had a good week so far of doing that."
Sjoroos said getting road wins over West Valley and Palmer, in addition to last week's win over Wasilla, allows the Bears to control their own destiny. And tonight is the next step toward a chance to play for a state title.
"The way our conference is this year it's such an accomplishment if we can pull that off, so that's obviously on everybody's mind," he said. "Lathrop is the hurdle we need to get over to get in the playoffs this year."
JDHS and Lathrop kick off at 8 p.m. tonight at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.