In recent years, Juneau Youth Football League junior division coach Eddie Brakes took his team to California for a postseason game arranged through the Internet.
This year, with travel costs being a concern, Brakes took to the World Wide Web again. But this time he stayed in Alaska and found a couple of other leagues to join the JYFL All-Stars for the 2001 Alaska Junior League State Championship, held Thursday through Saturday at Juneau's Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Kodiak opened the tournament with a 40-0 victory over Ketchikan on Thursday night. On Friday night, the JYFL All-Stars beat Ketchikan 32-0. Saturday night the JYFL All-Stars clinched the first junior league (age 10-13) state title with an 18-0 victory over Kodiak.
"I played with the Internet stuff again," Brakes said. "Then I called the 'Problem Corner' (radio) program in Kodiak and I called Ketchikan Youth Football League board president Richard Tombaugh. Both leagues are fairly close, and we're all independents. Some of the other teams in the north play Pop Warner rules."
Tony Cortes, the Kodiak coach, said the tournament was just what his program needed to move to the next level. The Kodiak Youth Football League started in 1999 after 25 years of failed attempts to get a program going. The first year Kodiak had 134 kids play, and last year it was up to 244. This year there were 225 players, but the league ended registration earlier.
"Our goal is to have a high school team in a couple of years," Cortes said. "Juneau is like our model. Juneau has a lot of experience with its league. When they said they were putting this tournament together, we jumped at the chance to play."
Ketchikan coach Blaine Ashcraft said the tournament may help give his program a boost.
"Ketchikan's gone through several transitions with its youth football league, with a rebirth about six years ago," Ashcraft said. "Our numbers have been dwindling, and we're trying to rekindle interest in the league. This may give us a shot. Even though we lost, we expect to have more kids next year when our kids go back and tell everybody how cool it was to play in this tournament."
In Thursday's game, Kodiak was led by quarterback Clyde Valdez who had 80 yards rushing and three touchdowns and another 150 yards passing with a TD toss of 25 yards. Randy Diocares scored twice, once on a pass and once on the ground. Michael Odell led the defense with six individual tackles, two fumbles caused and a fumble recovery.
"It's an honor being on the first all-star team from Kodiak and representing Kodiak in this tournament," Odell said.
On Friday, Juneau used a pair of 50-plus-yard touchdown runs by Daryl Lew, plus shorter touchdown runs from Canaan Bausler, Alex Robinson and Nick Marthaller to beat Ketchikan. Lew ran for 117 yards on four carries, plus he scored on a two-point conversion run. Bausler ran for 126 yards on eight carries.
"It was all in the blocking," said Lew, who scored on a 51-yard run and a 55-yard run. "Adam (Litke) and (Phillip) Moser, and Faifo (Levale) were blocking. The whole line was blocking."
"We hit hard and had fun," said Ketchikan's Ozzie Quinoveva, who had several touchdown-saving tackles and forced a fumble. "We all enjoyed the hitting. Even though we lost, we had a lot of fun."
In the first quarter of Saturday's championship game, Marthaller sacked Valdez, forced a fumble and recovered it for Juneau's first touchdown. In the second quarter, Lew scored on a 55-yard run off tackle. Lew added another five-yard score in the fourth quarter. Brakes said Bausler was named the team's MVP of the game.
"We played intense defense," Brakes said. "Faifo Levale raised havoc in their backfield and shut down the side, and Nick Marthaller was big for us. It was what we call our 'Crush Defense.'"
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.