Sometimes all it takes is one play to completely change the tenor of an entire football game.
In Juneau-Douglas' 39-7 state quarterfinal win over visiting North Pole on Saturday, that play came late in the first quarter by Crimson Bears safety Kanaan Bausler.
With JDHS holding a 12-7 lead, Bausler electrified his teammates and the crowd by making a key interception. Patriots quarterback Justin Miller tried to hit tight end Bobby Ward on a quick slant, but Bausler expertly read the play and jumped the route.
Two plays later, Chris Hinkley threw his third touchdown pass of the game and the rout was on.
"It was a snowball affect from that point on," JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes said. "He revved up the defense and we played that way the rest of the game."
In addition to Bausler's play, JDHS received inspired efforts along the defensive line.
After playing sparingly the last few weeks due to a shoulder injury, sophomore Faifo Levale returned to wreak havoc in the North Pole backfield. Brakes said Levale's health is about 90-percent, but the sophomore gave the team a great emotional boost.
Levale's play forced North Pole to assign an extra blocker to him, opening things up for defensive end Joe Kohan, who had two sacks in the win.
"Joe Kohan stepped into his own," Brakes said. "He wasn't satisfied the last time he played North Pole. He was determined and played like he could play. He corrected his mistakes."
Hinkley tied the state record for touchdown passes in a year by increasing his total to 33. He threw six against North Pole on Saturday, tying Lathrop quarterback Brock Graziadei's 2003 mark.
"He had a good start and carried that through the whole game," JDHS offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said. "He dropped back and was oblivious to what was going around him. Also, no one hit him and that made a big difference."
In the Patriots and Crimson Bears' first meeting on Aug. 28, JDHS utilized a strong ground game to top North Pole. On Saturday, Hinkley and his receiving corps stole the show. The junior picked apart the Patriots' coverage underneath for short gains, while the offensive line yielded just one sack.
"He wasn't too glamorous on his throws," Sjoroos said of Hinkley's performance. "The longest was 26 yards and was a great catch by Angelo Katasse. They are mostly in the 15 to 20-yard range. That's a nice area of the field because you can run or throw. It's hard to defend that area."
With the win, Juneau-Douglas punched its ticket for the state semifinals and a date with rival East Anchorage. The Crimson Bears are ranked first in the state in the latest Anchorage Daily News / Alaska State Football Coaches poll, while the Thunderbirds are second in Alaska.
The semifinal game takes place at noon Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium. The winner takes on either Palmer or South Anchorage for the state championship.
The Bears and T-Birds have split their last four meetings, with the Crimson Bears winning the most recent contest. JDHS topped East 27-26 in the state quarterfinals last season as Hinkley hit Josh Lehauli for a 36-yard TD pass with 1:20 left in the game.
In 2003, East topped Juneau for the state title.
"This will be kind of a rubber match of sorts," Sjoroos said. "They beat us in 2003, we beat them in 2004. It's turned into a good rivalry. ... It's good to square off one more time. The kids are excited."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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