'The legend that is Juneau football'

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2007

Throughout the 2007 Alaska high school football season, plenty of fans statewide opined about how there wasn't one dominant team like in past years.

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As it turns out, the team they were searching for was right under their noses. Juneau-Douglas High School proved to be that dominant team all along.

The Crimson Bears completed a perfect 11-0 season Saturday with a 23-13 victory over Palmer in the Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bowl large-schools state title game Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium.

While the 2005 state-champion Bears turned every game into a thrilling highlight-reel of spectacular catches and pad-cracking hits, these Bears won with ruthless efficiency.

They may have lacked the pizzazz of the 2005 team, but this squad will be remembered for, more than anything, executing the game's fundamentals better than anyone in Alaska.

These Bears rarely made mistakes. No matter who donned that crimson and black uniform this season, that player possessed a supreme understanding of his role and an undeniable trust in the system, coaches and teammates.

Defensive tackle Phil Moser didn't knock running backs unconscious, he just got there faster than anyone else and wrapped up their legs like a boa constrictor.

Middle linebacker Donovan Wilson always seemed to be where the ball was, and nose guard Faifo Levale could be counted on to make the big play in the tightest of contests.

Also, Juneau-Douglas workhorse running back Silver Maake didn't break off any 80-yard runs. All he did was dictate the tenor of a game with his pounding 5- and 6-yard runs.

"It's not physical, it's something deeper inside everyone," JDHS defensive tackle Phil Moser told the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network after the game. "Everyone has their heart in it and they have that drive. It doesn't matter who we put out there, it ends up in the same place."

Saturday's game proved no different.

JDHS scored on its first three possessions and blanketed Palmer's offense.

The Moose didn't make many mistakes in the game. Juneau-Douglas just forced Palmer to earn every single yard.

Defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes' crew didn't allow a single big play until late in the fourth quarter when JDHS enjoyed a comfortable lead. Add in a blocked punt, a safety, two stellar punt returns by Lincoln Maka and Dominic Smith pinning another team inside its own 10, and it all meshes together into a perfect finish.

One look at the numbers shows Juneau-Douglas' dominance.

• JDHS outscored its opponents by an average of 25.8 points per game.

• The Crimson Bears limited opponents to 7.7 points per game with three shutouts.

• Quarterback Ryan "Bubba" Larson threw 13 touchdown passes opposed to just five interceptions in his first year of competitive football since middle school.

• The team nailed three shutout victories.

• 47.2 rushing yards allowed per game.

The future of JDHS football is up in the air.

With Thunder Mountain High School opening next year, will the town field two football teams? Can it afford to support two teams? Will the sport become too expensive and be crushed under the weight of maxed-out credit cards and airline tickets?

The future of football is unknown. For now, however, the 2007 Crimson Bears join elite company.

The Crimson Bears became just the fifth program to win multiple large-school titles.

More importantly, this team now carries the responsibility of instilling the tradition in younger generations.

These players are part of Juneau football history. Now they must teach the next group of athletes to uphold this heritage that started 29 years ago on a rocky glacier-silt gridiron.

"The legend of Juneau football is kept alive by kids that never leave it," JDHS coach Bill Chalmers told the ASBN following the win. "What happens in Juneau, they come back and contribute."

• Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or sports@juneauempire.com.

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