Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau Huskies junior Brandon Campbell protected his quarterback on offense and chased the opponents quarterback on defense in a two-way show of guts and determination that the entire Juneau roster followed as they steam-rolled Dimond 36-6 on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field.
“He didn’t come out of the game at all except for one drive,” Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos said of Campbell. “He definitely made some stops.”
Campbell wears a “Live Like Matthew C” bracelet on his wrist in honor of his older brother who passed suddenly in 2020 at age 24 with a rare form of childhood cancer. The wrist band also says “Hope, Strength, Cure.”
“I just want to make him proud of me,” Campbell said. “I just want to live my life like he lived his.”
Campbell’s older brother taught him how to play hockey and the saxophone, to study hard and to be a good person.
“He is my role model,” Campbell said. “My big brother. He inspired me. He taught me how to play hockey. He taught me how to be tough. When I go out on the field he is with me, most definitely. I am always thinking about him. He was my biggest fan.”
Campbell thwarted Dimond’s closest threat to enter the end zone in the third quarter with the Huskies leading 21-6. Momentum had shifted when Dimond intercepted a Juneau pass on the opening drive of the second half and worked their own drive inside the Juneau five-yard line.
“The game momentum had swung after that turnover and run back,” Sjoroos said. “They could have made it a one score game and then anything can happen.”
Instead, Campbell happened.
At fourth and goal from the Juneau one-yard line Campbell brought down a Dimond runner and excited the stands, the sideline, and the defensive unit as the Huskies took over on downs.
The electrified Huskies began a 10-play, 99-yard drive, capped off by senior Gaby Soto running into the Dimond end zone for a 27-6 advantage.
“It flipped the game back in our favor,” Sjoroos said. “And we were able to finish it off.”
Juneau’s defense was 11-players strong, and that 11 were whoever happened to be wearing the black jerseys.
Campbell, senior Wallace Adams, junior Hunter Derr, senior Kurtis Lee, junior Sam Sika and junior Lucas White were noted but Sjoroos expanded that to an entire roster.
“Pretty much anybody who played defense today had a big play, big tackles at one point or another,” Sjoroos said. “They got off blocks. We talked about how this could be the best tackling team we have had in the past decade. We’re kind of showing that. We are not missing a lot of tackles. We have been going against some good athletes and not missing many. We’re hanging on until the reserves get there and doing some gang tackling.”
Senior Matthew Hartsock got his first action of the season and took a couple pass catches on offense and senior Sione Veikoso took center for the final drive of the game and played some defensive line.
“Just happy to be a part of the team,” Hartsock said. “It was good. They are a lot bigger than me but I’ve always been a real scrappy player and I’ll get up in them and hit them as hard as I can. It was good to get up on the line with everybody. I’ve made some mistakes but I’m only going to get better by the end of the season. It was great to get on the field with these guys and Noah always throws good passes to me.”
On offense, Juneau used a combination of senior quarterback Noah Chambers and direct snaps to running backs to confuse Dimond.
“We’ve been doing that for quite a few years now,” Sjoroos said. “It seems to work with the kids we have. Just trying to find the right mix of pass and run. Find the things that work and put the kids in position to be successful.”
Senior James Connally caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Chambers and junior Chris Harris caught a seven-yard touchdown toss.
“This team is great,” Connally said. “We are not just a team, we are family. When one person does something great everybody celebrates. It’s just nice.”
Soto twice helped carry the ball down field and blasted through the Dimond line for one-yard touchdown plunges and junior Jamal Johnson ran for a seven-yard score. Adams was a perfect five-for-five in extra points and only had one kick off returned in play.
Dimond’s lone score was a quarterback sneak by junior Tyler Reese on first-and-goal from the Juneau two yard line with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Their conversion failed.
Dimond had first possession in the game and was helped along by two Juneau offside penalties but were forced to punt from their own 44 yard line. Juneau moved from their own 20 on runs by Soto and Johnson until Connally hauled in the touchdown.
Dimond moved their second possession from their own 20 to their only score with help by a 55-yard pass to junior Casey Malachi.
Dimond recovered the onside kick but fumbled on their first play and Johnson recovered for Juneau on their own 36 yard line. Soto and Johnson took direct snaps down field until Johnson put Juneau up 13-6 and Adams kicked his second extra point for 14-6.
Dimond was stopped on their first possession in the second quarter, Juneau was also stopped, and Dimond fumbled their next opportunity as well. The ball was recovered by Huskies junior Jarrell Williams at the Dimond 41 yard line and Juneau worked down to Harris’ touchdown reception from Chambers for a 20-6 lead. Adams added his third extra point for 21-6.
Dimond was working down field on their next possession but Adams intercepted a pass at midfield. Juneau worked downfield but also lost the ball to a pickoff. The Huskies defense held into the half.
“Stopping their momentum was big in the game,” Sjoroos said. “We played some undisciplined football in the first half and the kids know that and we’ll work to clean that up. Everyone walked away knowing that we need to get a lot better if we want to play deep into the season. It was key for us to force a couple turnovers and just not compounding the mistakes with bigger mistakes. That stop inside the five though was a huge momentum swing because we were driving, they make the big play and run it 50 yards back, they are first and goal inside the five. And we stopped them four straight plays. Hats off to anyone who was in on a tackle in that series.”
That series didn’t start until Juneau lost first possession of the second half on an interception. Then the Huskies rallied for four big tackles, the last by Campbell, and Soto carried for 27-6 with Adams adding 28.
Dimond was forced to punt with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter and Juneau kept the ball into the fourth period. Soto carried the ball across for 34-6 with 11 minutes remaining and Adams added 35.
Dimond moved from their own 20 on their next possession to the Juneau nine yard line but again the Huskies defense used a sack by senior Wyatt Harvey and a tackle by Campbell to stop the ball and force a fourth-and-seven pass that the Juneau secondary allowed to meekly hit the turf. Both teams had one last possession in the final five minutes.
Campbell also played the center on offense, making sure the ball got to where it was supposed to go and then keeping opponents from reaching that same destination.
“It’s pretty tiring,” Campbell said. “But I think it’s a good part for the team. We are just really conditioned and we have a lot of the basics down. We all just need to clean up our tackling and get our reads better.”
Campbell gave a nod to the Juneau fans.
And to his biggest fan…
“I love you, and I miss you,” he said.