Huskies Coach Breaks Down Win over Dimond; West Next

    Juneau wide receiver James Connally (10) catches a pass over Dimond defensive back Vance Harris (22) during Saturday's 35-6 Huskies win over the Lynx at Adair Kennedy Field. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau Huskies coach Rich Sjoroos went from a week one no penalty 53-12 win over Colony to a more flagged 35-6 pounding on Dimond in week two, both at Adair Kennedy Field and both showing how well his team can adjust to game-time situations.

      “It definitely took us out of our rhythm,” Sjoroos said. “Sometimes when you get into that situation, where you are inflicting a lot of penalties on yourselves, you lose your focus on coaching and you’re just focusing on trying not to commit penalties. And then you’re not planning on setting plays up or making adjustments on defense or whatever. The focus becomes, just don’t commit a penalty on this play. As a group we’ll do better this week in that area.”

      On the first series of Saturday’s game, Dimond’s possession was prolonged by offside penalties on Juneau. The Huskies defense would toughen and Dimond would earn a false start to stall its drive and lose momentum.

      Sjoroos said officials tend to throw more flags as the season progresses and he has wondered in past seasons if a team was playing worse or officials were seeing more.

      “As the season goes along, they get more in tune with what’s going on in front of them,” he said. “They’ve had a chance to watch film. They kind of know how teams play and stuff and just see more. Their level of calling a game is going to increase along with, hopefully, our level of play so they are going to see more things than maybe they did not see early in the year. So you have to play at a higher level each week because the referees are going to see more as the season goes along.”

    Juneau turned Dimond’s penalty into the game’s first score in an 80-yard drive capped by senior quarterback Noah Chambers connecting with classmate James Connally. Facing fourth-and-12 from the Lynx 29 yard line, Chambers connected with Connally on a 29-yard pass play.

      Sjoroos said that play was the key for the first half, putting Juneau on the board and out of mind the prior week’s dominating win over Colony.

      “Sometimes you get that in your head where you want to be blowing a team out,” Sjoroos said. “And that is just not realistic in the conference we are in. Everything kind of fell our way in week one and in week two things weren’t falling our way necessarily in the first half. I think everybody just needed to get past that ‘we’re on top of the world’ mentality and let’s just play football one drive at a time, one quarter at a time and see where it takes us at the end of the game.”

      The Huskies also lost a player in the first quarter to an unsportsmanlike act when a scuffle broke out after a play. The infraction aided Dimond in scoring, but it also allowed a valuable moment by some Huskies upper classmen to lead.

      “That was interesting,” Sjoroos said. “We haven’t had anything like that go on, obviously, in a few years. But credit to the veteran players on the team. They just dug in.”

      Dimond would recover an onside kick but fumble under pressure and Juneau would begin a systematic march down field for a score with 48 seconds remaining.

      Both teams would receive penalties on Dimond’s next drive and the Lynx were facing a fourth-and-three from their own 37 yard line and decided to test Juneau again. Huskies seniors Lucas White and Kurtis Lee and junior Brandon Campbell passed the test with a gang tackle that would result in continued field position and another score later in the second quarter.

      “We just kind of settled in,” Sjoroos said. “It wasn’t so much anything we did. It was more just the players saying ‘hey, let’s just play football and control the things we can control and keep our composure.’ From there on out, I think things were pretty good.”

      Sjoroos noted seniors Wallace Adams, Mathias Wiederspohn, Wyatt Harvey, Chambers, White and Lee, and juniors Jamal Johnson and Jarrell Williams as level-headed leaders.

    “And you have Brandon Campbell, who had the best game of his high school career,” Sjoroos said. “There is just a group of them that… they are not so much talkers, they are doers. I think everybody just gets in line behind those guys and then it becomes a team effort.”

      At halftime, the Huskies talked about the focus that had been put on them and the fact they had not played football in so long, which led them to demand a great performance and play at a high level of energy in week one.

      “It’s unrealistic to thing you are going to match that the second time out,” Sjoroos said. “Even myself, my energy level probably wasn’t where it was at on week one. I think everybody was just waiting for somebody to make a big play to get the energy going.”

      The second half energy came after Juneau started a drive but Dimond intercepted a pass and was headed for a touchdown.

      Instead the Huskies put themselves in position to herd the ball carrier into a tackle at their own 22 yard line and held that goal line four straight drives from inside the 5 yard line, including two huge gang tackles and a solo tackle by Campbell on fourth-and-goal.

      The Huskies then went 99 yards in nine plays for a touchdown and control of the game.

      “We were just able to continue on from there and close it out,” Sjoroos said. “We have a lot of gang tackling going on which is what we have been preaching in all the drills we do, swarming to the football. Pretty much anybody out there on defense had a factor in that game.”

      Dimond ran the ball 49 times and 25% of the time the Lynx were kept to zero or negative yards.

      Sjoroos noted Juneau had four turnovers and would be focusing on ball security this week, protecting the football and finishing drives.

      “When you get into these later weeks, every team is going to continue to get better each weekend,” he said. “You make those mistakes and they are just going to be magnified as the conference season goes along.”

      He also said the Dimond defense put the Juneau passing game off balance.

      “I didn’t feel like we got into a good rhythm throwing the football,” Sjoroos said. “We do better when we throw the ball out of desire versus necessity. They have some good athletes, give them credit, they had a nice plan in place.”

    SCORE BY QUARTER

    Dimond  6  - 0 - 0 - 0  =   6

    Juneau   14 - 7 - 7 - 7  =  35

    HOW THEY SCORED

    1ST QTR

    4:59 - Huskies - Chambers 29-yard pass to Connally. Adams PAT. 7-0.

    2:18 - Lynx - Reese 2-yard run. Conversion fails. 6-7.

    0:48.7 - Huskies - Johnson 6-yard run. Adams PAT. 14-6.

    2ND QTR

    6:22 - Huskies - Chambers 6-yard pass to Harris. Adams PAT. 21-6

    3RD QTR

    2:20 - Huskies - Soto 3-yard run. Adams PAT. 28-6.

    4TH QTR

    11:27 - Huskies - Soto 1-yard run. Adams PAT. 35-6.

    HUSKIES STATS

    Passing: Noah Chambers 8-19 for 100 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Rushing: Gaby Soto rushed 22 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Jamal Johnson rushed 14 times for 91 yards and one touchdown. Kaden Messmer rushed three times for nine yards. Chris Harris rushed one time for two yards. Jarrell Williams rushed one time for zero yards. Noah Chambers rushed one time for minus one yard.

    Receiving: James Connally caught two passes for 42 yards and one touchdown. Lucas White caught one pass for 15 yards. Jamal Johnson caught one pass for 15 yards. Matt Hartsock caught two passes for 12 yards. Jarrell Williams caught one pass for 10 yards. Chris Harris caught one pass for six yards and one touchdown.

    Interceptions: Juneau - Wallace Adams 1. Dimond - Vance Harris 1, Malachi Casey 1.

    Turnovers: Juneau 4, Dimond 3.

      Another hurdle this coming week is travel. Juneau will have to deal with its first road game of the season and a COVID-19 mitigation plan that involves an earlier flight to Anchorage, an afternoon game against traditional powerhouse West Anchorage and an early evening return home.

      “That’s a pretty long check list to get ready for that one,” Sjoroos said. “Traveling, I don’t think any team so far this year, whether it be Sohi traveling up to Lathrop, Dimond or Colony coming here, Bartlett traveling out to the Matsu Valley… nobody has found a recipe yet to go on the road this year and win. Definitely going to be a challenge.”

      Early morning flights, school buses, unfamiliar fields, food and fuel, earlier games and weather.

      “So many things that don’t even involve the Xs and Os of the game, that kind of need to fall into place before the game,” Sjoroos said. “We’ll kind of create a checklist of that stuff and hopefully everything runs smoothly there. As far as West, I think everybody would agree they are right up there at the top of the state as far as talent, coaching and all that stuff. They are just a handful every year and this year is no different. We’ll have our hands full all over the place. Whether it be offense, defense, special teams, they just have a really sound program. We’ll just try and break down the film, find some matchups or things that hopefully we can do to put our kids in position to be successful and just go out there and play a good football game.”

      Juneau will play 2 p.m. Saturday on West Anchorage High School Eagles Field at 1700 Hillcrest Drive, Anchorage.

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