EAGLE RIVER - Ascending to the No. 1 ranking among state large schools football teams apparently is a ticket to trouble, and Saturday afternoon another poll powerhouse took a tumble.
The fifth-ranked Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears smothered top-ranked Chugiak, 31-7, to not only secure the Cook Inlet Conference's top seed in the state quarterfinal playoffs, but also make the Mustangs the fourth No. 1 team to get smacked down this season.
Chugiak joined Service, West Anchorage and Dimond as teams that have been ranked No. 1 and then been beaten.
"That's what they say, teams in first place can't hold it," said Chugiak quarterback Cory Wardrope. "We thought we were gonna be able to do it. But you can't win with (six) turnovers."
While the Crimson Bears lived up to the promise of the white stickers on their helmets - "Play in October," the stickers read - the Mustangs had some consolation in defeat. They are in the playoffs too.
Juneau's victory at Chugiak in the final Cook Inlet game of the regular season created a three-way tie for first place between Juneau, Chugiak and East Anchorage, all of which finished 4-2 in conference.
The teams are seeded in that order, which means Dimond, a 42-12 loser to East on Saturday, is seeded fourth and must travel to Juneau for a state playoff quarterfinal game, and Chugiak will entertain East.
The opening round of the state playoffs is this weekend, but game times won't be finalized until later this week. The Juneau-Dimond game is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, Juneau Youth Football League president Karen Lawfer said.
The seven-team Cook Inlet has been so zany this season that Juneau coach Reilly Richey marveled at the circumstance he found his team in at halftime Saturday.
"We heard the East score and we knew we were either fifth place or conference champs," he said. "That's crazy."
Juneau (6-2 overall) landed the conference's top seed thanks to its physical domination of Chugiak (5-2) and its ability to throw kinks into the Mustangs' passing game. The Crimson Bears intercepted Wardrope five times, caused him to lose a fumble, sacked him four times and delivered more hits than your 401K plan took a couple of years ago.
Wardrope had thrown for 1,116 yards in seven games entering a gorgeous fall afternoon, but Juneau harassed him at every turn, blowing through and around the Chugiak line to repeatedly hammer the junior or flush him out of the pocket. Wardrope had thrown just seven interceptions in 140 passes before Saturday, when Josh Lehauli picked off two of his tosses and Richard Isett, Nick West and C.J. Keys each snagged one.
Wardrope threw for 172 yards, but completed just 12 of 29 attempts and was also hurt by receivers who dropped catchable balls.
"I don't know what happened," Wardrope said. "A lot of times I made some accurate throws but other times things didn't go my way.
"I don't know if we thought we could just show up and beat Juneau. They're a tough team, really strong and fast. They beat us up all over our own field."
Richey said the Crimson Bears were intent on collapsing the pocket and forcing Wardrope into difficult throws.
"He's got a quick release," Richey said. "We didn't think we'd lose by giving up five-yard outs. We just tried not to give up the big play. Sometimes you live by the pass, sometimes you die by the pass."
Chugiak opened the scoring on Glen Eichenlaub's 1-yard run midway through the first quarter. Juneau responded with the first of junior Brian Felix's three touchdown runs and used a 2-yard scoring run by senior Toni Talamai and a 29-yard field goal by senior Richard Isett to earn a 17-7 halftime lead.
Juneau's defense continued to gain easy access to Wardrope in the second half, which kept the Mustangs from mounting any hint of a rally.
"That was one of our main goals, to pressure him and not give him time," said Juneau's Ryan West, who had two sacks. "It puts them under a lot of pressure."
The Mustangs held Felix to just 77 yards on 20 carries in the first half. In the second half, though, the 6-foot, 190-pounder began to bruise the Mustangs. Felix carried 12 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
That gave Felix 163 yards and three touchdowns for the game, more than enough to break the 1999 team records for rushing yards (1,312) and touchdowns (11) in a season set by Ryan Wilson. Felix needed 122 yards and two touchdowns to tie the records, and now has 1,353 yards and 12 TDs.
"They just wore us out," said Chugiak coach Travis Cantrell.
That happened to a lot of No. 1 teams in Alaska this season.
Notes: The Crimson Bears are scheduled to arrive back in Juneau at 9:27 a.m. today. They will be flying on Alaska Airlines Flight 62. ... The Juneau junior varsity team missed out on an undefeated record when it lost 22-8 to Chugiak on Saturday afternoon to finish at 6-1 for the season. No game details were available.
CRIMSON BEARS 31, MUSTANGS 7
Saturday's game from Chugiak High School
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 7 10 7 7 - 3
CHUGIAK 7 0 0 0 - 7
Chugiak - Eichenlaub 1 run (Oliver kick), 5:43.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 3 run (Isett kick), 2:44.
Juneau-Douglas - Talamai 2 run (Isett kick), 7:00.
Juneau-Douglas - FG Isett 29, 0:04.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 2 run (Isett kick), 7:30.
Juneau-Douglas - Felix 16 run (Isett kick), 8:14.
First downs 15 12
Rushes-yards 45-208 24-22
Passing yards 82 172
Return yards 98 109
Comp-att-int 5-13-0 12-30-5
Punts-ave 4-28.8 3-39.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 8-69 9-79
RUSHING - Juneau-Douglas: Felix 32-163, Keys 4-25, Talamai 5-14, Wright 3-7, M. Shilling 1-(-1). Chugiak: Eichenlaub 16-44, Wardrope 7-(-23), Beckwith 1-1.
PASSING - Juneau-Douglas: M. Shilling 5-13-0 - 82. Chugiak: Wardrope 12-29-5 - 172, Sperry 0-1-0 - 0.
RECEIVING - Juneau-Douglas: Keys 2-29, N. West 2-15, Malacas 1-38. Chugiak: Sperry 6-80, Hagge 2-40, van Hasstert 2-32, Eichenlaub 1-10, Kissee 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS - None.