Bears versus Mustangs: No love lost in old rivalry

Posted: Friday, October 02, 2009

The last two times Chugiak traveled to Juneau to face the Crimson Bears, it didn't end well for theMustangs.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

In 2003, Juneau-Douglas rallied with a late scoring drive to shock Chugiak (5-3, 4-3), keeping the Bears' playoff hopes alive.

A win Saturday, beginning at 8 p.m., would keep this year's Juneau-Douglas (6-2, 5-1) football state title hopes alive. There's no love lost between the two schools.

"Chugiak, (the rivalry) goes clear back to the early '90s," interim Bears head coach Rich Sjoroos said. "We just couldn't get over the hump. And finally, in 2003, it was a real make-it-or-break-it game where we had to win to get into the playoffs, and if we lost we were out alltogether.

"We ended up winning the game and the conference title that year, and we went on to play in our first state championship."

The next year, Sjoroos said, Chugiak returned with very little fanfare from the Juneau-Douglas faithful.

"The game was really heated, it came down to the last minute and we won," he said. "That was the last time that we played them in 2004, and they wrote a really scathing article to their local newspaper about our fans and how we need to re-think football in Juneau because our fans were so unruly and they felt like they were unsafe; really outrageous stuff.

"It left a sour taste in a lot of the Juneau fans' mouths," he continued. "I think our fans are spirited, but there's nothing malicious about them at all."

The last time Chugiak, the No. 4 seed from Cook Inlet, coach Duncan Shackleford faced the Bears, this year's Railbelt No. 1 seed, he was then coaching Dimond. Felix could only watch from the sideline as JDHS steamrolled his Lynx 44-14 in the first round of the state playoffs in 2003 behind a 308-yard rushing performance by Brian Felix, who also had fivetouchdowns.

Shackelford, however, is the only coach to ever come into Juneau and win a playoff game.

"He came down in 2001 and won, so he's not going to be fazed at all," Sjoroos said.

Chugiak owns wins over both North Pole, who beat JDHS handily this year, and defending state championService.

Unfortunately for the Bears, senior defensive captain and All-State linebacker Jack Perkins is out for the rest of the season, having suffered a torn ACL during last Saturday's win over Colony.

Fortunately for the Bears, they have one of the top rushing offenses in the state, led by juniors Matthew Maka, who also has a 300-yard game to his credit this year, andJustin Brooks.

Sjoroos said Chugiak's offense is methodical, and a key will be keeping the JDHS defense off the field as muchas possible.

"They're a power team, and they've got a couple of really tough running backs," he said. "And their quarterback is a slick player who can run the option and keep it. They don't throw much, but he's a threat and you have to honor that. If you don't, you'll pay the price because at any time they could pull the trigger, drop him back and take a shot down the field."

Sjoroos said the Mustangs like to chew up the clock when they get things rolling.

"When Chugiak has been successful, they'll run 15-play drives," he said. "And that shows you how disciplined they are. They don't jump offside, they don't fumble the football - they're all about getting the first down and keeping the chains moving. It's not unusual for them to put together a 7- or 8-minute drive and suck the life right out of the game.

"That puts a lot of pressure on your offense," he continued. "If you get out on the field and only have a few minutes left in the quarter and it's your first time seeing the ball, you feel like you have to race down to get into the end zone to even things up. When they are successful offensively, it makes the other team's offense impatient, and that plays right intotheir hands."

Sjoroos said fans should expect to see fireworks.

"Even though they're coming in as the four seed, they're going to be ready to play," he said "And our guys, I'm sure, will be just as ready. It's going to be one of those dynamite football games that happens every so often in Juneau."

So there's no love lost between the Bears and the Mustangs, and it's make-or-break time - win, or go home. Who's ready for some football?

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