Bears can now focus solely on Pasco Bulldogs

Juneau's Maller helps lead the defense

Posted: Monday, September 26, 2005

With the West Valley game behind them, the Juneau-Douglas High School football team can now talk about Pasco.

The Crimson Bears (7-0, 6-0 Railbelt) defeated the Wolfpack 54-0 Friday and the Railbelt Conference champs will host the winner of Saturday's game between the Wolfpack and North Pole in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.

There has been a lot of anticipation, however, for Saturday's contest against the Bulldogs from Washington state. This game will represent the toughest test for the Crimson Bears thus far.

"I look at it as a real step up in competition," JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said. "It's a chance to see what works and doesn't work heading into the playoffs. It's also a real good indicator of how good are we."

While a win or loss Saturday won't affect playoff standings or state title aspirations, it will be interesting to see how JDHS reacts to playing a powerful team.

Pasco has captured three state titles in the last seven years.

"I think the most important thing is keeping things in perspective," JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "They'll have more athletes than any team we'll face in Alaska. The similarities are we use the same size football they do, both teams have teenage boys and it's just who wants it more."

If the JDHS defense can continue their string of dominant games, the Crimson Bears should be well prepared for the Bulldogs.

On Friday, the Bears didn't allow a first down until the final two minutes of the third quarter to seal their first shutout of the year.

"We've created 23 turnovers this year over seven games," JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "We want to create opportunities for the offense and we have the offense that can convert on those."

A key to the Bears' defense this season has been the steady play of middle linebacker Brian Maller. When Pat Kohan broke his left fibula in August, Maller dutifully filled that void on the field.

While he doesn't make the gigantic hits that induce gasps from the crowd, he forces the play at the point of attack and allows his teammates to surround the ball-carrier.

Maller didn't have any interceptions or fumble recoveries in Friday's win, but his consistent play in the middle makes the rest of the defense better.

"He comes up to the hole better than any linebacker on the team," Brakes said of Maller. "He's not giving a home run hit like Josh Lehauli, but he's taking your ankles out. You're trying to get away from him and that's when everyone else gets in on it because he got the dirty work done."

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



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