ANCHORAGE - West Anchorage High junior linebacker Andrew Javar roared into the backfield and dropped the Cook Inlet Football Conference's leading rusher for a 4-yard loss on the final play of his team's clash with Juneau-Douglas on Saturday.
The tackle hardly qualified as play-of-the-year material with the Eagles up by two touchdowns, but...
"It was a good way to go home," Javar said.
And having your playoff hopes kept alive isn't bad either.
West's defense kept third-ranked Juneau-Douglas off the scoreboard in the second half and the Eagles found their running game at Anchorage Football Stadium to score a much-needed 21-7 win.
The unranked Eagles, despite surrendering a game-high 268 rushing yards to Juneau bruiser Brian Felix, made enough big plays on offense and defense to stay in the thick of the convoluted CIFC postseason picture.
Top-ranked Chugiak (4-2 overall, 4-1 CIFC), a 5-0 winner over Bartlett on Saturday, is the only CIFC team to clinch a playoff spot. The next four teams all have 3-2 CIFC records. The final three spots will go to either Juneau, second-ranked Dimond, fourth-ranked East Anchorage or West after games this coming weekend. Juneau plays at Chugiak, Dimond hosts East and West takes on Bartlett at AFS.
On Saturday, West (5-2 overall, 3-2 CIFC) snapped a two-game losing skid and rebounded from a sorry start on offense. The Eagles' first three possessions ended in three-and-outs and Juneau outgained West 198-57 in the first half. West also lost the services of starting quarterback Ricardo Peña, who left with an injured left leg late in the second quarter.
Save for West junior Nick Holman's 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown seconds after Juneau (5-2 overall, 3-2 CIFC) scored the first touchdown in the second quarter, the Eagles' first half was completely forgettable. Holman only touched the ball once on offense, so he needed to make his impact on special teams.
Holman took the kickoff at the West 9-yard line and faked a reverse before heading up the right sideline.
"And that's when one of my guys missed his block, which actually kind of helped," Holman said. "He took a bad angle and I went from there."
The missed block enabled Holman to freeze three would-be Juneau tacklers near the 30-yard line. He tip-toed his way through traffic before cutting past Juneau kicker-defensive back Richard Isett at Juneau's 40, on his way to the end zone.
"I was not going to get caught by the kicker," Holman said. "I would have never been able to live that down."
Holman tied the game before halftime and West scrapped any plans of throwing the ball in the second. The Eagles ran every play and racked up 222 of their 279 rushing yards. Sophomore Remy Martin ran for 164 of his 201 yards and Montel Massenburg picked up 47 of his 66 in the second half. Each scored fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"West played with a lot emotion," Juneau coach Reilly Richey said. "They ran the dive and complimented it with the sweep and we couldn't get them down. The West offensive line really got after it."
West's commitment to the run didn't disappoint Holman, usually one of the primary receivers. After moving to Alaska from Texas this summer, Holman didn't dig Saturday's drizzly mix of rain and snow.
"I'm glad we weren't passing because I wouldn't have caught anything," he said. "I would have broken my fingers. We weren't passing and that was cool with me."
The Eagles are back in the win column, even though they allowed a team to run for more than 250 yards in the third straight game.
"That doesn't bother us as long as we win," Javar said.
With one week left in the regular season, winning is all West can concern itself with.
In the junior varsity game Saturday morning, Juneau beat West 70-6 to remain undefeated.
Tom Topui rushed 10 times for 147 yards and four touchdowns, while Matt Barry was named offensive player of the game as he carried 13 times for 109 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Barry also had a long fumble return for a touchdown (Juneau JV coach Eddie Brakes said the play went for 60-70 yards) after Will Tonsgard hit West's quarterback to force the bobble.
Brian Mauler was defensive player of the game, while Alex Robinson and Justin Sanbei scored one rushing touchdown each for the Crimson Bears JV (6-0 overall).
EAGLES 21, CRIMSON BEARS 7
Saturday's game from Anchorage Football Stadium
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 0 7 0 0 - 7
WEST ANCHORAGE 0 7 0 14 - 21
Juneau-Douglas - Keys 14 pass from M. Shilling (Isett kick), 3:45.
West Anchorage - Holman 91 kickoff return (Quinn kick), 3:30.
West Anchorage - Massenburg 15 run (Quinn kick), 7:57.
West Anchorage - Martin 22 run (Quinn kick), 1:52.
First downs 23 12
Rushes-yards 54-269 41-279
Passing yards 77 0
Return yards 93 101
Comp-att-int 8-21-2 0-3-0
Punts-ave 3-31.3 4-39.8
Fumbles-lost 1-1 5-2
Penalties-yards 9-60 14-140
RUSHING - Juneau-Douglas: Felix 45-268, Talamai 4-13, Kohan 1-4, M. Shilling 2-(-6), Keys 2-(-10). West Anchorage: Martin 26-201, Massenburg 10-66, Johnson 2-9, Holman 1-3, Pena 2-0.
PASSING - Juneau-Douglas: M. Shilling 7-17-2-71, Kohan 1-4-0-6. West Anchorage: Peña 0-3-0-0, Bridges 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING - Juneau-Douglas: Keys 4-42, West 3-30, Kohan 1-5. West Anchorage: None.
MISSED FIELD GOALS - Juneau-Douglas: Isett, 28 (wide left). West Anchorage: None.