Adjustments lead to victory for Juneau-Douglas

Second-half secondary maneuvers help quiet Wasilla's air attack

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2006

One of the things that separates football from other sports is that it isn't flowing - it's more static.

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Unlike soccer, which tests athletes with 90 minutes of constant motion, football is almost like a series of miniature games. Each play is its own battle, with constant adjustments being made from play to play.

Juneau-Douglas made some key defensive adjustments at halftime that helped it pull out a 16-13 win Friday over a determined Wasilla squad.

"We talk to our players all the time that we're going to face challenges and adversity and it'll be up to you to respond," JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "This prepares us for further down the road."

Wasilla seized an early lead by utilizing its blazing-fast receivers. Dexter Pearce made a one-handed catch and blazed 75 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. Warriors speedster Jeff Champion also slipped past Juneau's secondary for a 70 yard gain later that quarter.

Down 13-7 at the half, Brakes made a key adjustment to helps his defense better defend Wasilla's attack.

"We actually loosened up a little bit in the secondary," Brakes said. "We put a little less heat on and didn't blitz as often and actually ran another safety. We just put more on our defensive line to put on more pressure so we could do it."

The players responded by shutting down Wasilla's offense in the second half.

With linebackers Devin Bliss and Alex Robinson free to play more coverage, the secondary limited Wasilla to only 13 passing yards in the second half.

Carlo Ebron made a personal adjustment by reading and jumping in front of Pearce for a third-quarter interception that led to the game-tying touchdown.

The secondary and linebackers wouldn't have been as effective, however, if not for the defensive line raising their level of play.

Tackles Donovan Wilson and Phil Moser helped limit Wasilla's rushing attack to 79 yards on 30 carries while ends Zach Heppner and Faifo Levale recorded one sack each.

"Zach Heppner has played phenomenal the last two weeks," Brakes said. "Each week, he's playing better."

Offensively, Juneau-Douglas showcased a new look in an effort to increase its rushing production.

After recording 79 yards on the ground in the loss to Palmer two weeks ago, JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos altered his offense.

Instead of the traditional I-formation, on Friday the Bears ran almost exclusively with split running backs in the backfield. Also, guards Tyler Zimmerman and Zach Starbard pulled on running plays to the outside. This change in formation and in the blocking scheme placed more of an emphasis on getting to the edges rather than rushing between the tackles.

Ebron and Fagerstrom's speed, along with Zimmerman and Starbard's ability to create running room on the outside, helped JDHS boost the running game.

"The main thing is we need to run better," Sjoroos said. "Throwing the football will get you into the playoffs, but running will win the games once you get there ... We changed our focus a bit and changed the way we blocked things."

Juneau rushed for 201 yards and two TDs on 43 carries. While a 4.7 yards-per-carry average isn't huge, it proved enough to keep the chains moving.

Sjoroos' adjustment in practice helped pay dividends when the lights turned on at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at

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