The Juneau-Douglas football team's season has been anything but a breeze thus far in 2010, but the Crimson Bears made it look easy Friday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
During a season that has seen several key players lost for the year, the Bears (5-1, 4-1) pummeled Lathrop (0-6, 0-5) 53-0 to secure one of the Railbelt Conference's playoff berths. Since senior wide receiver Eric Fagerstrom suffered a torn ACL against Palmer three weeks ago, different playmakers have stepped up for Juneau-Douglas over the last few games.
This time it was Chris Holloway's turn.
The senior wideout found paydirt twice and showed a propensity for the big play as both of his scores came from more than 60 yards out. Sophomore quarterback Phillip Fenumiai found Holloway with a perfect pass down the right sideline on the Bears' first play of the second quarter and the receiver did the rest, shedding tackles and sprinting 62 yards for the score. The extra point gave JDHS a 23-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
But Holloway didn't stop there.
His 70-yard punt return for a touchdown just before halftime gave the crimson and black a commanding 43-0 lead following the PAT heading into the break.
"We just wanted to execute everything well, and we didn't want to get overconfident this week," he said. "We didn't, and everybody did their jobs and made great blocks the whole game."
While beating the winless Malemutes seems to be the norm around the Railbelt Conference these days, Holloway said the real accomplishment is clinching a spot in the playoffs.
"We're all very happy and this means everything to us," he said. "We've been striving for this all year. We've lost so many people already this season, so it's good to be back in it."
Bears coach Rich Sjoroos said given the schedule the rest of the way, it was important for his team to take care of business Friday night against Lathrop.
"We don't want to have that hanging over our heads going into the last game of the year against North Pole because if it had come to that, most likely it would have been us or them that goes and the loser doesn't," he said. "You don't want that kind of pressure in your last game of the regular season, so it was good to get it done tonight."
Though the Malemutes have stuggled mightily all season, Sjoroos said the Bears needed to come out the way they did to inspire confidence in the lockerroom going into a tough stretch against Mount Vernon (Wash.) and North Pole.
"I think if we'd have struggled in this game, knowing what was waiting for us next week and the week after that - if we squeaked out of here with a two-point win or something like that, I think we would have been scratching our heads a little bit," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but it does feel better to know we can play a convincing game of football."
And Juneau-Douglas was impressive from the start as Fenumiai found senior wide receiver Colin Gozelski on a deep cross to get the scoring started on the Bears' second drive of the game. Gozelski grabbed the Fenumiai pass near midfield and took it to the house, outrunning several Lathrop defenders to the end zone. The two-point conversion made the score 8-0 about four minutes into the game.
A 30-yard pass to junior Sean Collum set up a Fenumiai quarterback sneak with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter following a Lathrop fumble. The Bears were in control 16-0 after a successful conversion, and they would continue to play add-on.
After Holloway's 62-yard catch and run for a score, junior Jerick Ibias picked off a pass from Lathrop's Jonah Silva and ran it back for another Juneau-Douglas touchdown. A one-yard run from senior Devan Neal on the Bears' next drive made the score 36-0 following the extra point.
After the break the Bears played most of their reserves, but still managed 10 more points on a 22-yard field goal from senior Peter Jorgensen and a another punt return for a touchdown to cap the scoring, this time a 42-yarder from sophomore Kohl Jaeger, a recent call-up from the JV.
The Crimson Bears will host Mount Vernon (Wash.) on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.