Bears open Moose hunting season

JDHS football tries for fourth-straight playoff win against Palmer High School

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2008

It has been said that you can predict the future by looking to the past.


That idea falls short, though, when analyzing the bad blood that has been brewing between the Crimson Bears and Moose football teams before today's opening-round playoff game in Palmer.

Tradition sides with Juneau-Douglas High School after knocking its Railbelt Conference rivals out of the state playoffs in each of the past three seasons, including the 2007 title game.

However, recent history has favored the Moose, who used three fourth-quarter scores to top JDHS 34-19 in their regular-season matchup on Aug. 29 in Palmer. The game marked just the second time the Moose have ever defeated Juneau, and the first time since 2006.

Palmer broke a 13-13 tie in that game with two identical rushing touchdowns in under 15 seconds. A Juneau fumble after the first score helped to facilitate the devastating quarter of a minute.

"We had a tendency to really hang our heads after somebody scored early in the season, even if it was early," defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "We've turned that around in the last couple of weeks. We really believe that we're a different football team than we were then."

More than a few Crimson Bears have changed positions or returned from injury since that early season loss, but the team is primarily counting on the same cast of characters to step up the intensity.

Senior linebacker and All-State candidate Jack Perkins will lead that charge as the team's leading tackler. Perkins' primary job against the run-heavy Moose offense will be plugging the holes created by a Palmer offensive line that Juneau head coach Bill Chalmers describes as the "heart of the team."

"I don't think I can over-emphasize Jack's impact on the game. He can really shut down another team's offensive chances," Chalmers said. "He wasn't even playing on our offensive line last time against Palmer, and he's done a great job there as well."

The Moose racked up 265 rushing yards in the teams' first game, and did not attempt a single pass. The Crimson Bears defense has stiffened considerably since then, however, and has surrendered just 206 yards on the ground in its last two games combined.

The Crimson Bears also will need to keep tabs on Johnny Daly, the state's reigning 200-meter champion in track, who the Moose use at a variety of positions. Daly returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown in the teams' first meeting - Palmer's only touchdown in the first half.

"They'll move him around to the slot (receiver) and the backfield. He's really matured and he's getting a lot more touches this year," Chalmers said. "He really hurt us badly on special teams last time we were up there, and they count on that."

Though the team's focus will be primarily on the run, Chalmers said he also has noticed the Moose passing more in recent weeks and expects them to take a few shots downfield this time around.

Offensively, Juneau-Douglas looks very similar to Palmer, focusing primarily on its flourishing ground game. Running back Alex Fagerstrom is coming off a 184-yard, two-touchdown performance last week at Colony. Prior to that, the senior piled up 270 yards and five touchdowns on Senior Night against Lathrop.

"Alex is going to be right up there for All-State as well," Chalmers said. "He's such a quality player, I don't see how anybody could vote against him."

Alex's younger brother, sophomore Eric Fagerstrom, has developed into another threat for the Crimson Bears in the backfield and as a receiver, picking up a touchdown in each of the last two weeks after returning from an injury.

Juneau-Douglas might have the edge in the passing game, though, where senior Dakotah Smith recently returned to the position. Smith did not attempt a pass in last week's victory over Colony, primarily because the Crimson Bears began most of their drives in great field position. However, he finished 5-for-5 with 87 yards and two touchdowns against Lathrop.

In the end, both teams know what the other squad is going to do, they just need to stop it.

"We know what we did wrong last time, and we've made adjustments. I'm sure Palmer has already made adjustments to what we've done," Chalmers said. "We've told the boys to expect the unexpected and just play good, intelligent football."

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