Juneau-Douglas redeemed

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2010

Same scenario, different result.

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Juneau-Douglas staged a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback Saturday, scoring four touchdowns over the final 10 minutes to stun Chugiak 24-7 in the 4A state quarterfinals at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

"Determination and big frickin' heart. How 'bout them Bears," defensive coordinator Al Fenumiai shouted during the post-game huddle. "I am so proud of each and every one of you."

The circumstances were eerily similar to last season's quarterfinal game, also in Juneau between the same teams, which ended after a Crimson Bears snap sailed out the back of the end zone on a punt attempt, resulting in a game-winning safety for the Mustangs with five seconds remaining.

In the end for this year's go-round, Chugiak was able to control the line of scrimmage against Juneau-Douglas' outsized offensive and defensive lines, but Juneau-Douglas made the big plays down the stretch the Mustangs couldn't.

The Juneau-Douglas defense had perhaps its best performance of the season, holding Chugiak's rushing attack to just 98 yards while avoiding the big play. Greg Ghramm, one of the state's top rushers, finished with just 50 yards on 21 carries.

The only play of consequence was on the opening kickoff, which Ghramm returned to the JDHS 13-yard line before punching it in five plays later for the Mustangs' lone score.

"We weathered the storm," coach Rich Sjoroos said. "They end up scoring on their opening drive and so we're down 7-0 right out of the gate. And it was like, 'OK, what are we in for tonight?' But the kids responded."

Sjoroos said it was all about preparation this past week during practice.

"I've coached for 18 years and that's the most time I've ever put in preparing for a game. That's the most time the kids have ever put into a game, and it paid off," he said. "Those guys were students of the game this week. It was phenomenal. It was a really dialed-in group of guys."

The Crimson Bears' offense kept plugging away all night, finally breaking through in the fourth quarter when Jerick Ibias broke a monster 48-yard run to the Mustang 4-yard line, setting up the first Juneau-Douglas score. The Bears made a lot of big plays through the first half but couldn't stay out of their own way, committing several costly, drive-killing penalties.

But all it takes is one big play at the right time to open the floodgates, and Ibias was the man to provide it.

"It was all after Jerick's run," said receiver Colin Gozelski, who had a huge game of his own. "It got us motivated and they only had seven points at halftime, so our defense was doing it. But I think it was really Jerick's run, and then our run game started to get going and it opened up the passing game."

"That sparked us," quarterback Phillip Fenumiai agreed. "It sparked everybody in the crowd and we started playing Crimson Bears football - rough and tough. We started running the ball (effectively)."

Ibias' run set up an eventual 1-yard touchdown plunge by Fenumiai on fourth-and-goal. The extra point was blocked, but the Bears were in business.

"We were still down but we knew we could get back and take the lead," Fenumiai said. "After we scored another touchdown, we knew we had control of the game."

The go-ahead score came on the next JDHS possession. The Bears' defense forced a three-and-out and Juneau-Douglas took over at its own 31-yard line. On first-and-10, Fenumiai, a sophomore, threw the signature pass of his career to this point, burning the Mustangs' one-on-one coverage and hitting a streaking Chris Holloway on the run for a touchdown that gave the Bears a 12-7 lead.

"I knew if I just laid it out for Chris, he would get it," Fenumiai said. "I threw it as far as I could and I know Chris is fast - it was just a great feeling when he caught it."

There was still 6:37 to play so Chugiak had plenty of time for a comeback, but Gozelski put the game out of reach after stepping in front of a Ghramm pass and intercepting it around midfield. Gozelski broke a few tackles and hit the left sideline before cutting back in and taking it to the house for a pick-6 and an 18-7 JDHS lead.

"We saw that play coming," Gozelski said. "We've been watching film all week ... and (Ghramm) was pretending to run and (Colby Mitchell) was running right at me. We got good pressure ... and I didn't even have to move. It went right into my hands and I got good blocking downfield, and I had to get it in."

JDHS tacked on another score on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Fenumiai to Gozelski, who was wide open in the right corner of the end zone with 1:29 to go.

Gozelski finished with nine catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, and also had two interceptions with one returned for a score.

"Colin, it's his first year (playing football) and I'm so proud of him. I'm just so happy for him, and I'm proud of the whole team for keeping their heads up and keeping our composure, knowing that we could push through it," said Fenumiai, who finished 17 of 33 for 250 yards and two scores. "Now we're in the semifinals and it feels great."

Fenumiai also carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. Holloway had four receptions for 83 yards and a score.

Sjoroos said it was a tale of two halves for JDHS.

"One is a group of young kids not being able to make plays early on, and then finally, Jerick's run sparked everything," he said. "To get that touchdown on fourth-and-goal - and here's the other big thing: We missed the extra point, but that's kind of par for the course for us with the adversity we've been facing this year.

"We couldn't get over the hump in that game last year with these guys," he continued. "This one, Holloway made the catch to get the lead and it hit everyone that this really could happen."

JDHS faces West Anchorage next week. Service and Colony play the other semifinal.

Check tomorrow's Empire sports section for the All-Conference team, which features several JDHS players.

How They Scored

First Quarter

CHS - Grahmm 1 run (Maley kick), 9:55

Fourth Quarter

JDHS - Fenumiai 1 run (kick failed), 10:00

JDHS - Holloway 51 pass from Fenumiai (conversion failed), 6:37

JDHS - Gozelski 50 interception return (converstion failed), 4:55

JDHS - Gozelski 6 pass from Fenumiai (Kick failed), 1:29

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