After what looked to be a shootout early, defense took over the first-round game of the 4A state playoffs as the end of the line for the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears came earlier, and more dramatically than expected.
With five seconds left in the game, the Bears' long-snapper snapped the ball over punter Silver Maake's head for a safety, giving the Mustangs a 16-14 lead with three seconds remaining. When Chugiak recovered the free kick from JDHS, a kneel-down was all it took to ride out the final seconds.
"If you gave me a thousand bucks and said you think that's going to happen, I wouldn't have taken your money because I would have thought something was wrong," said Chugiak head coach Duncan Shackelford of the safety. "I knew it was going to overtime and it would come down to two big dogs biting each other, but it was one of those things that just happens."
In a fourth quarter dominated by defense, field position proved to be the demise of the Crimson Bears as they found themselves pinned deep in their own end zone late in the game.
Interim head coach Rich Sjoroos said that despite what heppened, he was thrilled with his team's performance on and off the field all year.
"I hope that they'll let that one go and realize that was a four-quarter game with lots of plays, not just all about what happened at the end because it would be a shame if that's what people took away from that game," he said. "This group was a tight-knit group and they'll be friends 20, 30 years from now, and that makes me feel good as a coach - that we taught them about more than just football."
On the fourth play of the Bears' opening drive of the third quarter, Matthew Maka ran off-tackle down the right sideline for a 69-yard touchdown run, shaking defensive backs as he cut back to the middle of the field and into the end zone. The extra point was blocked, making it a tie, 14-14. The blocked kick proved to be a big difference-maker.
At that point, the momentum seemingly shifted back to Juneau-Douglas as the defense held Chugiak to minus four yards on three plays during its ensuing drive. After a punt, the Bears marched down the field in 13 plays to the Mustangs' 2-yard line. But on the 14th play, Justin Brooks failed to convert a fourth-and-goal that would have given JDHS a seven-point lead as he was gang-tackled after a one-yard gain.
The second half quickly turned into a defensive struggle for field position, as both sides continued to pound the ball via the running game. It would continue that way through the third and fourth quarters.
With JDHS up 8-7 mid-way through the first quarter, Chugiak answered quickly with a 20-yard play-action pass for a score to junior wide receiver Colby Mitchell following a kickoff return that was nearly taken back for a touchdown. The extra point put Chugiak up 14-8 after its first two possessions resulted in 104 total yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the first half, the Chugiak Mustangs accumulated one total yard of offense.
After Juneau-Douglas marched down the field on its first drive for a 16-play, 77-yard drive for a touchdown, the Bears managed only 45 yards the rest of the first half, all coming on the ground.
Chugiak took the opening drive of the game 80 yards on 10 plays as Greg Ghrahmm took the ball off the right side for a 21-yard run down the sideline for a touchdown.
Matthew Maka had 28 carries for 221 yards for the Bears, while Justin Brooks added 100 yards on 23 carries.
Senior captain fullback and linebacker Jack Perkins, who recently was diagnosed with a torn ACL, said this season has been really special to him.
“It’s meant the world to me. I’ve made tons of friends here,” he said. “Looking back on it, I’m really proud of everyone who played out here, but I just wish I could have joined them.
"My heart's out to them, I know how they feel. I just really want them to succeed in whatever they do."