ANCHORAGE - Nothing could shatter the grin on Juneau-Douglas High School senior Brian Felix's face, or the grip his athletic hands held to the Crimson Bears' team charm.
Felix, a 202-pound senior running back-defensive back, scored two touchdowns, rushed for 103 yards and picked off the game's only interception to lead the Crimson Bears to a 61-40 Cook Inlet Conference victory over Bartlett Saturday at Anchorage Football Staidum. The 101 points was highest point total by two teams all season and the most given up by Bartlett in eight years.
The win also gave Juneau the fourth and final Cook Inlet Football Conference postseason berth and ended Bartlett's season.
"We're so jazzed," Felix said. "We're going back to the playoffs. We wanted to return, and we met our goal."
The Crimson Bears (5-3 overall, 4-2 CIFC) earned the CIFC's third seed at state, winning a tiebreaker over Chugiak, which lost 33-25 to top-ranked West Anchorage on Saturday. Juneau will play second-seeded East Anchorage on Friday or Saturday at AFS.
Felix, who vividly remembers the Crimson Bears falling to East in last year's state championship game, attributes their post-season return partly to the charm he held Saturday - a dog tag with 10-23-04 and a bible verse stamped on it.
The date: this year's state championship. The verse: a lesson on team unity. Felix's dog tag, along with 32 other tags, has nestled next to Juneau's bench all season inside a wooden bucket.
"The tag describes how a unit is a unit," Felix said. "When one fails, all fails and when one is glorified, all is glorified."
Offensive linemen Ryon Pratt, Jake Ritter, Jesse Vaughn and Alika Bradley were among a handful of glorified Juneau players who horrified Bartlett's defense. The line created the holes Felix needed and the pockets sophomore quarterback Chris Hinkley used for protection during a perfect day passing.
In the game's opening drive, Hinkley handed the ball to Felix five straight plays. He bashed through a sleepy Golden Bears defense, eventually scoring on a 5-yard dash that put Juneau ahead 7-0.
"Our offensive line was blocking great," Felix said. "It was easy for me to run."
Bartlett, which had its first drive stopped at Juneau's 1-yard line in the opening quarter, responded early in the second quarter. The Golden Bears (5-3 overall, 3-3 CIFC) completed their second drive, despite getting trapped in Juneau's red zone on a pair of holding penalties. Bartlett running back Vernon Pennywell busted a 35-yard run to relieve Juneau's pressure. Pennywell finished with 96 yards on 14 rushes.
Pennywell's longest run of the afternoon led to Gabe Debrill's 22-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Williams. The failed kick made it 7-6.
"Bartlett doesn't get down very easily," Juneau's wide receiver-defensive back C.J. Keys said. "We really wanted to stick it to them in the second quarter and go into halftime with a big lead."
Josh Lehauli erupted with an 80-yard kickoff return to spark Juneau's 35-point second quarter. He juked a half-dozen Bartlett players before the 50-yard line, stumbled, then pumped his legs into high gear near the end zone.
The Crimson Bears led 42-12 at halftime after scoring four more touchdowns following Lehauli's return. Hinkley contributed to three of them, including a 45-yard toss to a wide open Ryan Fagerstrom and he zipped a 9-yarder to Naash Richey.
"We wanted to control ball because we knew Bartlett had a big-play offense," Felix said.
But it turned out that Juneau had the more high-powered offense.
Hinkley was a perfect 7-of-7 passing for 133 yards and three touchdowns, and he never panicked.
Juneau coach Reilly Richey noticed.
"Hinkley has great poise for a sophomore," he said. "He's stands back there and surveys the field. Most of the guys he's hitting are wide open."
After Juneau forced a safety to open the third quarter, Hinkley gunned a 26-yard pass to an unguarded Richey for the 51-12 lead.
Bartlett went on to score three consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough to overcome a huge Juneau lead.
"They ran all over us," Bartlett coach John Jessen said. "I just wish we could have scored on our first drive."
As Juneau gathered for its team picture, Reilly Richey watched his players hold their dog tags and remembered that it symbolized the perseverance and motivation it took for Juneau to regroup, especially after losing three straight games earlier this season.
"10-23-04, that was the kids' goal," Richey said. "Not 10-2-04."
In the junior varsity game, Juneau finished the season with a 28-14 victory over Bartlett, giving the Crimson Bears a 6-2 record.
CRIMSON BEARS 61, GOLDEN BEARS 40
Saturday's boxscore from Anchorage Football Stadium
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 7 35 19 0 - 61
BARTLETT 0 12 8 20 - 40
Juneau - Felix 5 run (Ashe kick), 10:28.
Bartlett - J. Williams 22 pass from Debrill (kick failed), 9:29.
Juneau - Lehauli 80 kick return (Ashe kick), 9:17.
Juneau - Hinkley 3 run (Ashe kick), 6:38.
Juneau - Richey 9 pass from Hinkley (Ashe kick), 4:02.
Juneau - Fagerstrom 45 pass from Hinkley (Ashe kick), 1:21.
Bartlett - Pennywell 7 run (pass failed), 0:16.
Juneau - Lehauli 15 run (Ashe kick), 0:02.
Juneau - Safety, fumbled kickoff in end zone, 11:50.
Juneau - Richey 26 pass from Hinkley (Ashe kick), 10:47.
Juneau - FG, Ashe 31, 7:29.
Bartlett - Pennywell 7 run (Anthony run), 4:12.
Juneau - Felix 3 run (Hernandez kick), 0:40.
Bartlett - J. Williams 33 run (Anthony run), 11:52.
Bartlett - Gionson 3 run (pass failed), 2:34.
Bartlett - VanOrd 17 pass from Debrill (run failed), 1:09.
First downs 17 14
Rushes-yards 53-262 47-337
Passing yards 133 131
Return yards 133 57
Comp-att-int 7-11-0 5-7-1
Punts-ave 1-40 3-18.7
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 4-30 4-33
RUSHING - Juneau: Felix 23-102, Keys 12-69, Lehauli 2-33, Saldivar 8-32, Hinkley 3-15, Cooper 1-8, Ashe 1-3, Kohan 3-(-4). Bartlett: Pennywell 14-96, VanOrd 6-76, Anthony 9-58, Brady 5-20, Wade 1-7, Williams 5-5, Gionson 3-3, Bailey 1-2.
PASSING - Juneau: Hinkley 7-7-0 - 133, Kohan 0-3-0 - 0, Fagerstrom 0-1-0 - 0. Bartlett: Debrill 5-7-1 - 131.
RECEIVING - Juneau: Fagerstrom 2-63, Richey 3-43, Keys 1-17, Lehauli 1-10. Bartlett: Williams 4-114, VanOrd 1-17.
MISSED FIELD GOALS - None.