Mistakes by Juneau and a couple of big plays led the Kodiak Football League All-Stars to a 14-0 victory over the Juneau Youth Football League All-Stars during Thursday night's preliminary game of the Junior Division (age 11-12) State Invitational Tournament.
The JYFL All-Stars lost three fumbles and threw an interception, while Kodiak used a 22-yard pass from Nick Bishop to Gilbert Saravia and a 47-yard end-around run by Saravia to set up a pair of touchdowns in Thursday's opener of the two-game series.
Kodiak's defense was able to shut down Juneau's offense each time Juneau started to mount a drive, and Juneau only had two drives that even came close to the goal line.
"I was surprised," Kodiak coach Dave Simmerman said. "I was surprised how we did. Our defense played awesome."
Juneau and Kodiak will play again at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, with that game being the true state championship game.
"Today's game was just the prelims, it's what we announced," said Juneau coach Eddie Brakes, who created the state invitational last year with Kodiak and Ketchikan both sending teams to Juneau. Ketchikan didn't send a team this year, which is why Juneau and Kodiak are playing each other twice. Last year Juneau blanked Kodiak 18-0 and Ketchikan 32-0, with Kodiak skunking Ketchikan 40-0.
Kodiak took a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Bishop completed his pass to Saravia, only to have Saravia stopped by a crowd of Juneau players at the 1-yard line. Bishop ran the ball in for the touchdown on the next play, but on the conversion he was forced to scramble and his pass fell short.
"I couldn't see. I wear glasses," said Saravia, who said he thought he was in the end zone. "This makes everyone pumped up. Juneau thinks we're not that good."
"This feels good," Bishop said. "Coaches said they (the JYFL All-Stars) hurt when they tackle."
For the next two quarters, the game was a defensive struggle as Bill Chimphalee led Kodiak's unit and Junior Davidson led Juneau's. Both players were frequently in their opponent's backfield as both Bishop and Juneau quarterback Alex Fagerstrom were sacked more than once.
"Their center was huge, he was hard to get around," Davidson said. "We need to work on our offense."
"It'll probably be more difficult on Saturday," Chimphalee said.
Kodiak added an insurance touchdown midway through the third quarter, a score set up by Saravia's 47-yard end-around run. Saravia appeared to be on his way to a score, but Juneau's Justin Fairless was able to stop him at the 13-yard line. But that only delayed things, as Kodiak scored two plays later on a 5-yard run by Bishop. Nick Van Matre ran in for the conversion to make it 14-0.
"They played a good game," Fairless said. "We need to practice hard on Friday. We need to stay at home (on defense). It was hard to get through them."
"They were bigger this year, and they played bigger," said Fagerstrom, who was one of four players from each team to take part in the series last year. "Our line's got to block better. We need to work harder."
The Kodiak players said they expect Saturday's rematch to be tougher.
"You can't think lightly of them," Bishop said.
Juneau players and coaches are confident they can win on Saturday.
"We'll make the adjustments," Brakes said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.