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Crimson Bears show ability to bounce back

Juneau trails for first time this season, but rebounds to qualify for upcoming state tourney

Posted: Monday, September 12, 2005

Saturday night against host Wasilla, the Juneau-Douglas High School football team found themselves behind for the first time all season.

Guess what? The Crimson Bears didn't like it.

Juneau-Douglas responded to being down 7-0 by scoring 59 unanswered points to sew up a playoff spot with a 59-7 victory.

Wasilla quarterback Zach Bennett scooted 79 yards on a third-down run in the first quarter, setting up Jake Wake's 3-yard TD plunge.

After the Warriors scored, the game was all Juneau-Douglas.

"We turned it into a positive on both offense and defense," JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "We still have to go hard. We had a momentary lapse and it was one play that fired up the whole team."

Juneau's Josh Lehauli ignited the Bears' attack on both sides of the ball.

Lehauli rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries, as JDHS found ways to move the ball on the ground and in the air. The Bears rushed for nearly 300 yards, while junior quarterback Chris Hinkley completed nine passes for 212 yards.

"I think we hit the right side a lot and (right tackle) Joe Monagle was doing a great job," JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said. "The receivers are doing better each week blocking down field and that's a part we've improved on."

Saldivar scored on a screen pass for the second straight week, thanks to patient running and the relentless blocking of the offensive line and wide receivers.

On defense, JDHS once again stopped a run-oriented offense.

"They're a power-running team," Brakes said of Wasilla. "The just run the ball and if they're not successful, they'll run it again. Just pure smash-mouth football. I believe we were prepared for it. Our linebackers stepped up and did their job."

The defense forced three turnovers, capped by Lehauli's one-handed interception in the second half.

"He has a natural nose for the football and he's a consistently emotional player," Brakes said of Lehauli. "He takes every play seriously and that affects the rest of the defense."

Through the Crimson Bears remained undefeated with Saturday's win, they did not leave the Mat-Su valleys unscathed.

Juneau's standout sophomore defensive end, Faifo Levale, suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter and did not return.

JDHS (5-0, 4-0 Railbelt) can win the Railbelt Conference championship this Friday at home against Colony (4-1, 2-1).

If Juneau tops the Knights, it will become the first team in Alaska history to capture both Cook Inlet Football Conference and Railbelt Conference titles.

"That'll be our toughest defensive challenge to date," Sjoroos said. "Colony is known for their defense, that's what they build their team around. They play field position and pin you back and force you to make a mistake and then they feed off that."

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com



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