Huskies Mush past Knights in Season Opener

    Juneau senior Gaby Soto breaks a run to the end zone during the Huskies 53-12 win over the Colony Knights, Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field. (KLAS STOLPE)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Someone let sleeping dogs lie for too long, almost 700 days to be exact, and the Juneau Huskies came out of their pandemic hibernation of nearly two years with no high school football play to bite the Colony Knights, the preseason’s second ranked team in Alaska division one behind East and third in the state behind East and Soldotna, by a howling 53-12.

      “It was as complete of a game as I have ever been a part of for week one of a football season,” Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos said. “And after not playing for 674 days. You put all that into perspective, yeah, you check every box that I could have imagined. Colony a couple years ago beat us by eight, last year they got to play a couple games and we didn’t. When you are sitting there idle for a year your program takes a hit. Our off season weight lifting program wasn’t what it was. Football isn’t just practicing Monday through Friday, there is a lot of stuff that goes into making it good. And around the state, in the last 10-15 years, I think a lot of programs have embraced that and become more year round. With our kids there is this desire, I have known it for a long time, that senior group and the juniors coming in behind them, that is a pretty solid group of kids and they proved it today.”

      Juneau was ranked fifth in division one and 13th overall in the state. Some one didn’t get the memo that the Huskies were purebreds not pound hounds and they controlled their neighborhood yard as soon as the door to Adair swung open.

      Wallace Adams blasted the opening kickoff into the end zone and Colony struggled to get off their 20. The Huskies defense stopped Colony on a fourth and two by sacking quarterback Harvey Pullen.

      Juneau got to first and goal but settled for an Adams field goal for a 3-0 advantage.

      “It felt incredible,” senior Wallace Adams said. “I couldn’t eat an hour before the game. I was so nervous and anxious and just plain excited to play and it felt great.”

      Adams blasted the next kick off into the end zone and this time Colony worked to their own 34 yard line before punting away.

      Juneau responded with quarterback Noah Chambers orchestrating a drive capped off by junior Jarrell Williams’ catch and run to the one-yard line and senior Gaby Soto blasted through the line for a 9-0 lead. Adams added the extra point for 10-0.

      “It was great getting this win,” Williams said. “It was phenomenal. It is my first year playing varsity since COVID. And we got the job done obviously. We blew them out. It was light work

      Colony worked to their own 34 yard line to open the second quarter but Soto sacked the Colony QB and Juneau took over.

      Chambers opened with a pass to Adams to the 22, Soto broke through to the 14, junior Chris Harris ran for three yards and Soto ripped over the line for his second score and a 16-0 lead.

      A Colony penalty on the extra point inched the ball closer and Soto broke the Knights’ line with a two-point conversion for 18-0.

      Adams put another kickoff into the end zone and Colony worked to just over the half line and to Juneau’s 34 yard line before the Huskies defense forced three straight stops after giving up a seven-yard rush.

      Chambers passed to junior James Connally and an interference call put the ball on the Colony 41. Harris moved it a few yards closer and Soto broke his third touchdown run of the day for a 24-0 lead with 3:34 left in the half. Adams hit his second extra point.

      “I am so glad the school board let us play this year,” Chambers said. “And great things happened. I hope every one stays safe from this and we can just keep games rolling and continue to go out and play and have fun. It just felt great playing football again. Like Wallace I was so nervous and we haven’t played a game in like 670 days. It is great to be back out here.”

      Colony had their best drive of the day in the next minutes, working the ball down to the Juneau 12 yard line and were poised to move into the end zone when Adams put a monster hit on a Knights player heading to the end zone.

      “We talked about just having an attitude,” Sjoroos said. “Even when it comes to giving up a first down, saying ‘hey don’t let them cross the goal line.’ And that play before halftime where Wallace knocked that ball loose as that guy was heading toward the end zone. I think at that point if they get on the scoreboard right before half it gives them momentum going into the second half, and we were able to take that away.”

      Juneau received the second half kick off and on the first play from scrimmage junior Jamal Johnson broke a long run to the end zone for a 31-0 advantage. Adams added his third extra point for a 32-0 lead.

      “We got off to a great start in the second half,” Sjoroos said. “I’m going to say that surprised me a little bit. Just not knowing. You can’t simulate the first half time. You can’t simulate going live for two quarters and then sitting for 15 minutes. You know? What are you going to get? A group that is hungry or a group that is satisfied, you just don’t know. For us, we just couldn’t ask for a better start.”

      Both teams had to also account for two long medical stoppages in the game. A Colony player suffered from dehydration and needed transport to the hospital and another Knights’ player suffered a broken arm and was also transported to medical facilities. Both delays were unnerving for players, coaches and fans.

      “You can’t simulate that stuff either,” Sjoroos said. “For both sides, the whole emotional thing and long stoppage of play. You don’t practice for that kind of stuff. Credit to our kids and theirs too for being able to get back into the mix and play some good football.”

      On Colony’s first possession of the second half the Juneau defense again forced three straight yard-less plays and a fourth down pass attempt was blocked by junior Lucas White to give the Huskies the ball.

      Three straight running plays resulted in a fourth and 10 that the Huskies used to allow Chambers a pass to White for a  touchdown and 38-0 lead. Adams followed with his fourth extra point for 39-0.

      Colony scored their first touchdown of the game with 3:39 left in the third quarter. Having to start again from their own 20 thanks to Adams boot the Knights drove to the Huskies 30 and Pullen connected with sophomore Jack Nash for a pass and score to trail 39-6.

      Juneau’s Williams broke through to stop the extra point attempt.

      On the ensuing kickoff Johnson brought the ball out to the 48 yard line and after a seven yard run Chambers hit senior James Connally who was wide open on the side line and sprinted into the end zone for a 45-6 lead. Adams placed his fifth extra kick straight through the up rights.

      On the next kick off Adams put so much leg into the ball it sailed through the goal post, this time not a score, keeping Colony to their 20 yard line. The Knights would drive across the field and into the fourth quarter with Pullen connecting with Nash again at the 11:54 mark to trail 46-12. The Knights again succumbed to the Huskies defensive pressure and missed the extra point.

      Juneau senior lineman Reilly Hayes praised the team’s result.

      “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I think the harder you work it turns out better for everybody. No one’s lagging behind if you are working hard.”

      A running clock was used in the fourth quarter due to the elevated score and Colony recovered an onside kick at the Juneau 38.

      After a three yard run the Knights went to the air and Adams intercepted the pass and scampered 60 yards for a score and a 52-12 advantage. Adams then put his sixth extra point through the goal posts for the 53-12 final.

      “Oh man,” Adams said. “One of the biggest things coming into this year.. well, my sophomore year I played more of the timid safety that had a lot of pass coverage but this year I wanted to be a bigger hitter on the team. So laying that lick on the kid down here on the 10 yard line that was my biggest highlight.”

      Colony went four and out with 8:40 remaining, Juneau did the same with six minutes remaining, and the Huskies defense put the final clamps on with 3:51 remaining on the Knights last series.

      “It was really exciting,” senior lineman Mathias Wiederspohn said. “I really enjoyed just being able to play a game for the first time in so long. This is just so much fun being out here and being able to play. Our mind set was just to go after them because we don’t know if we have a game next week because of COVID stuff so we just have to put it all on the line right now. It probably won’t be our last game but we have to put it all out there. We’ll just think of it as our last and play that way.”

      Juneau will host the Dimond Lynx on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field.

      “We’ll think about this game for maybe tomorrow, maybe a little bit on Monday,” Chambers said. “But then it is right on to Dimond. That’s how you have got to roll.”

      Prior to the game the Juneau Husky Cheer team led the fans with a flag ceremony and national anthem and junior cheer leader Saelyr Hunt spoke of the team’s spirit.

      “We just love to promote our Husky cheer and football teams,” Hunt said. “And having everyone out here today is really fun. We haven’t had a football game in almost 700 days. We’re going to do great, we’re going to have a lot of fun and just be the Husky football cheer team.”

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