ANCHORAGE -- It wasn't easy being Service High green this season.
At least it wasn't until Saturday.
The Service Cougars football team finished a forgettable season with an unforgettable win, knocking off the top-ranked Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears 7-0 at Anchorage Football Stadium on Saturday.
"It's the best feeling in the world to watch the last seconds tick off the clock to beat the No. 1 team in the state," Service running back Ryan Ersland said.
The victory marked Service's second win of the season and was Juneau's only loss.
"This will keep us humble," Juneau quarterback Brett Fairchild said.
The Crimson Bears (7-1 overall, 5-1 in the Cook Inlet Football Conference) will host the defending state champion Dimond Lynx (4-4 overall, 3-3 CIFC) in the first round of the state playoffs this weekend. Game time has tentatively been set for 7 p.m. on Saturday night, but may change.
Service's Jake Staser rushed for 152 yards and the game's only touchdown, while Dustin Grimes led an inspired Cougar defense with two of his team's four interceptions.
The Cougars (2-6 overall, 2-4 CIFC) swarmed the Juneau backfield, sacking the state's No. 1 large-schools quarterback, Fairchild, seven times, forcing him into three interceptions and limiting him to just 108 yards passing. Fairchild had thrown just three interceptions all season entering the game.
Fairchild was missing his No. 1 target, injured senior wideout Jacob Dutton, to an ankle injury. But after the game he gave no excuses other than overconfidence.
"We came out expecting to win, but we started off flat," Fairchild said. "I'm happy for Service. If a team comes out like this, they should beat us. I'm surprised they didn't beat us by more."
One touchdown was enough, however, and Staser was just the man to deliver it.
After gaining just 13 yards on four carries in the first half, Staser played as if possessed in the second half and pounded the Crimson Bears backward on the game's critical drive.
With 2 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Cougars set off on the drive from their own 29-yard line by hitching their hopes to Staser.
The lanky, yet powerful, sophomore opened with a seven-yard gain up the gut, followed by a pair of eight-yard gains in similar fashion. Staser then muscled up the middle for a 16-yarder, followed by a gain of 12 to bring the Cougars to Juneau's 20.
Staser was held to one yard on the next carry, but Matt Malone follwed with a gain of 13 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Staser finished the drive the way he started it, with a crunching run up the middle, only this one ended with him spilling into the end zone for a six-yard score.
"That's the offensive line, they opened a hole on every play," Staser said. "It's the last game of the season and all I wanted to do was play as hard as I could."
Ersland, however, gushed over his backfield partner's bruising 58-yard, seven-carry performance in the winning drive.
"Perfect," Ersland said. "He just had his breakout game."
"We really didn't have an answer for the fullback running up the middle," Juneau head coach Reilly Richey added.
The closest the Crimson Bears got to Service's end zone was the 29-yard line. Service's defense stopped three fourth-down tries by Juneau in the first half and ended three second-half Juneau drives with interceptions.
Service coach Jason Caldarera said it was a defensive performance inspired by the words of Cougar defensive lineman Travis Pippin, who on Wednesday told his teammates: "Juneau might go on to win the state championship -- but let's go out and put a smudge on their season."
"And the kids took off with it," Caldarera said.
COUGARS 7, CRIMSON BEARS 0
Saturday's game at Anchorage Football Stadium
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 0 0 0 0 -- 0
SERVICE 0 0 0 7 -- 7
Service -- Staser 6 run (Sundquist kick), 11:28.
RUSHING -- Juneau-Douglas: Cameron 11-55, Tupou 7-46, Mason 1-11, Floresca 1-5, Fairchild 8-(-35). Service: Staser 22-152, Ersland 14-76, Parker 7-38, Malone 3-16.
PASSING -- Juneau-Douglas: Fairchild 11-23-3 -- 108, Tupou 0-3-1 -- 0. Service: Parker 1-4-0 -- 5, Walsh 0-1-0 -- 0.
RECEIVING -- Juneau-Douglas: Tupou 4-64, J. Miller 4-49, Monts 1-8, Cameron 2-(-13). Service: Ersland 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS -- Juneau-Douglas: None. Service: Sundquist 30 (wide left), 29 (wide left).
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