One down, two to go.
The Juneau-Douglas High School football team figured it had to win its last three games of the regular season to qualify for the state playoffs, and that feeling hasn't changed as the Crimson Bears prepare to host the No. 3 Chugiak Mustangs at 8 p.m. tonight in their final home game of the regular season.
The Crimson Bears beat unranked Dimond 37-7 last weekend. But they still need victories tonight and next week against No. 4 Bartlett to guarantee a spot in the playoffs.
"This will be my last home game, and hopefully it will help us get four more games," senior lineman Ryon Pratt said before Thursday's rainy practice at the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park football field. "The playoffs for us started three weeks early."
On paper, Juneau and Chugiak appear about equal, with Juneau having a slightly more potent offense and Chugiak having a stingier defense. Chugiak's defense has allowed just 53 points this season, the lowest of any CIFC team.
The Mustangs (5-1 overall, 4-0 Cook Inlet Football Conference) are coming off a 42-7 victory over the winless Service Cougars, a team Juneau beat 72-13 earlier this year. Chugiak beat Dimond 33-0 three weeks ago, and has split two close games with East Anchorage - losing a non-conference game and winning a CIFC counter two weeks ago. Juneau (3-3 overall, 2-2 CIFC) lost 35-28 to East three weeks ago.
Chugiak holds an 8-3 advantage in head-to-head matchups with the Crimson Bears over the years, but Juneau has won two of the last three games between the teams. Last year, Juneau beat Chugiak 31-7 in the season finale, a game where a Juneau loss meant the Crimson Bears didn't make the playoffs and a victory gave Juneau the CIFC title.
"We beat them a couple of times - my freshman year on their homecoming and last year," Juneau senior offensive lineman-linebacker Jake Ritter said. "This year is our senior night, so I'm sure they'll be much more aggressive."
As Juneau prepared to practice Thursday, the players ducked into the stands to avoid the rain. Even though more rain is predicted for tonight's game, the Crimson Bears actually seemed to welcome it.
Chugiak's offense is pass-oriented, even though Mustangs head coach Duncan Shackelford was a run-first guy when he coached Dimond to two state titles in 2000-01.
Chugiak quarterback Cory Wardrope ranks second in the state in passing yards with 777 on 34-for-60 passing with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. While no Chugiak running backs are ranked among the state's leaders, last week Warren Ballard ran for 151 yards and a touchdown on nine rushes, Wardrope ran for 81 yards on nine carries and fullback Andrew King ran for 49 yards on eight carries. The only Chugiak receiver in the state's rankings is Matt Devlin, who is 15th in receptions with 12 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
"If they throw, we've got great DBs. And if they run, we can stop the run," Ritter said. "If it stays like this (points to the rain), it can only work for us."
"We've been passing a lot, both teams," senior tight end-defensive end Mychal Hutcherson said. "If it doesn't let up, they'll have to rely on the run and that will limit Wardrope's options."
Juneau's offense is more balanced, as senior Brian Felix ranks fifth in the state with 729 yards on 129 carries for seven touchdowns and Juneau's two quarterbacks - junior Pat Kohan and sophomore Chris Hinkley - are both ranked among the state's best. Hinkley is ranked sixth with 586 yards on 33-for-56 passing with eight TDs and four interceptions, and Kohan is ranked ninth with 519 yards on 35-for-71 passing with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Kohan and Hinkley combined to set a school passing record last week against Dimond with 318 yards on 19-for-23 passing, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The previous school record was by Brett Fairchild, who threw for 249 yards against Chugiak in 2001.
Juneau also has two ranked receivers, both tied for ninth with 14 receptions. Senior C.J. Keys has gained 325 yards and five touchdowns with his catches, while junior Angelo Katasse has 286 yards and one touchdown.
"We're confident. We know it will be tough, and we expect a close game," Juneau head coach Reilly Richey said. "We heard it'll rain like this tomorrow, and that will probably be to our advantage."
Juneau JV takes on Ketchikan varsity
The Juneau junior varsity team hopes to avenge one of its two losses this season when it hosts the Ketchikan varsity at 5 p.m. tonight at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
The Crimson Bears were missing several key players the first week of the season when they suffered a 20-0 loss in Ketchikan, which was the first victory in team history for the Kings. The Crimson Bears (4-2) are at full strength now that players aren't also competing in baseball and soccer.
Last weekend, the Juneau JV beat Dimond's JV team 44-14 as quarterback Joe Kohan threw three touchdown passes to Daryl Lew, Jamaal Bailey ran for two scores, and Kohan and Phillip Moser ran for one touchdown each. Kohan, Lew and Bailey were all missing from the first Ketchikan game because of other sports.
Ketchikan (3-3) is coming off a 34-8 road victory over Delta Junction on Saturday. Boyd Runnion ran for 142 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to lead Ketchikan, while Ryan Borup (who also is a diver on Ketchikan's swim team) ran for a 20-yard score and quarterback Chris Ashcraft threw for two touchdowns.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.