ANCHORAGE - From the game's first play of the game to the moment the whistle blew, it was a great day for Juneau-Douglas High School football. The Crimson Bears won their first state championship in school history, 49-29 against the Palmer Moose on Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The offense led the Crimson Bears with a balanced attack as junior quarterback Chris Hinkley and senior tailback Tres Saldivar each broke state records.
Hinkley, who went 8-for-15 for 145 yards, tied the state championship record for touchdown passes thrown with three. Hinkley also broke the state single-season record for passing yards in a season with his first pass of the game, a 45-yard scoring strike to Angelo Katasse.
Saldivar had an absolute monster of a game. He shattered the record for individual yards rushing in a state championship with 330 yards on 29 carries.
"It's nice, but the W's better," Saldivar said. He attributed his success running the ball to "down-field blocking, the linemen opening up the holes and the second effort from the wide receivers and linemen going down-field to make the extra block."
The Juneau offense fired on all cylinders, rushing for 335 yards total and amassing an incredible 31 first downs.
"We weren't prepared for their running game," said Palmer coach Rod Christiansen, hoarse from yelling. "We prepared to try and find some ways to stop (wide receiver Ryan) Fagerstrom, but probably not enough for Saldivar. ... They just have so many ways to go on offense that we just couldn't stop them all."
JDHS senior running back Brian Maller helped anchor the offense with terrific blocking throughout the game.
"The reason the running game was working was not just because of Saldivar, but because of the blocking of the offensive line, particularly because of the blocking of Brian Maller," JDHS coach Bill Chalmers said. "Brian Maller played the game of his career today, both on offense and on defense. He's just a spectacular kid, and he did a great job today."
With the Crimson Bears ahead 28-14 at the half, Juneau's offense took over in the third quarter as Hinkley scored on an 11-yard run and later scored on a 1-yard plunge.
"We were surprised that we were able to run on them," Chalmers said. "We've had a few wrinkles in our running game, but we were surprised that we were able to run as well as we did. ... That was part of the game plan, to use the run to set up the pass, but they're a difficult team to run against in the past."
Palmer's offense was frustrated by the Crimson Bears all game, beginning with the Moose fumbling their first snap of the game.
Hinkley later made the Moose pay in the first quarter by firing a perfect strike to Katasse, who took it all the way for a 45-yard touchdown scamper.
"We wanted to make sure that we worked on every possibility that Palmer would throw at us," Chalmers said. "We knew what they were going to run, and we knew who their personnel were, and we did everything we could to stop them."
The Crimson Bears' defense stood strong against Palmer's option-heavy, shotgun attack. The Bears limited fullback Steel Tubbs to 86 yards rushing on 14 carriers.
In addition to fighting the Bears' defense, Palmer also hurt themselves with penalties. The Moose were flagged seven times in the first quarter and had Tubbs' interception return for a touchdown called back by an illegal block.
Palmer's offense started to click in the fourth quarter, but it proved too little too late.
After a 12-yard touchdown run by Saldivar with five minutes to go made the score 49-21,
Tubbs capped a 76-yard drive with an 18-yard TD run late in regulation.
After the game, fans and family members rushed onto the field to congratulate the players. It was an emotional game for the Crimson Bears, who lost longtime head coach Reilly Richey in March when he died.
"The whole season has been dedicated to Reilly," Chalmers said. "The kids were entrusted to the rest of us coaches, and we've got some great kids who were taught some great morals and ethics and some great skills, and we carried them through and brought them to the pinnacle. This is it, and we're loving it."