Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Juneau Huskies are the top ranked football team in the Cook Inlet Conference, the final Alaska Sports Broadcasters Poll, and in the hearts and minds of every pig-skin slinging, watching and cheering fan across the Last Frontier and beyond.
“We improved in pretty much every area that you hope to as a football team,” Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos said of the team’s growth from week one. “Chemistry, conditioning and just overall level of play and preparation and everything you want to see in a program. I just felt like we were in a good spot to start the year but we continued that climb upward. And in this conference we kind of knew going in that we would have to because it is a very tough league from top to bottom.”
With the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) state football playoffs set to begin, the Juneau fan base will widen as the steadily increasing face count and decreasing bleacher space at Adair Kennedy Field will be privy to two home playoff games.
The Juneau players have been focused on the playoffs from day one.
“I think that goes back to not having a season last year,” Sjoroos said. “The kids actually realized that things in your life can get taken away and just the determination this group has had since they were younger. You couple that with some adversity and all of a sudden you have a recipe for a pretty hungry group of kids that didn’t require a lot of extra motivation to get them going on a weekly basis.”
The Huskies (6-1) will open the ASAA quarterfinals at AKF against the eighth place Dimond Lynx (0-7) on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m. The Huskies would also qualify, with a first-round win, to host a semifinal on Oct. 16.
“We just have to approach this week at an even higher level than any week we have approached so far,” Sjoroos said. “I think that is the recipe for success in the playoffs. You really do find that teams raise their level of play and the teams that can do that the best tend to move on. Fortunately for us we had a good regular season and it put us in a position to play at home. But it is still two teams lining up with the same goal in mind and the stakes are high and we just want to approach this game with the best preparation possible.”
Also on Juneau’s side of the bracket, No.4 Colony hosts No.5 Bartlett.
On the other half of the championship bracket, No.2 East hosts No.7 Service, and No.3 West hosts No.6 South.
“It has been a great ride and obviously now we start over,” Sjoroos said. “You hear that phrase a lot, everybody’s records are zero and zero. Starting now is the first week of the season where it could be your final week and it does add a whole other dynamic to the level of mental preparation and things like that, knowing that this could be your final performance if you aren’t able to move on.”
Cook Inlet Conference final season rankings and scores -
(in order of schedule. all games are home unless noted):
In the ‘initial’ final week of CIC action last weekend, East (7-1) defeated Dimond (0-7) 48-7, West (5-2) defeated Colony (5-3) 42-14, Bartlett (4-4) defeated Service (1-7) 26-22, and South (3-5) lost to Soldotna (6-1) 42-41. Juneau had a ‘bye’ week.
No. 1 Juneau (6-1) defeated Colony 53-12, Dimond 35-6, lost to West 49-23 away, defeated East 39-28, Service 49-12 away, Bartlett 27-14 away, and South 42-7.
No. 2 East (7-1) defeated Service 45-22 away, South 59-22, Lathrop 50-26, lost to Juneau 39-28 away, defeated Colony 50-26 away, West 35-21 away, Bartlett 32-20 and Dimond 48-7.
No. 3 West (5-2) defeated Bartlett 33-9 away, Service 35-6, Juneau 49-23, lost to South 46-34 away, defeated Dimond 35-9 away, lost to East 35-21, canceled Lathrop away, and defeated Colony 42-14.
No. 4 Colony (5-3) lost to Juneau 39-28 away, defeated Bartlett 40-13, South 34-31 away, Wasilla 34-14 away, lost to East 35-12, defeated Dimond 21-14, Service 17-14, and lost to West 42-14 away.
No. 5 Bartlett (4-4) lost to West 33-9, Colony 40-13 away, defeated Palmer 22-15, Dimond 14-8, South 30-22 away, lost to Juneau 27-14, East 32-20 away, and defeated Service 26-22 away.
No. 6 South (3-5) defeated Dimond (forfeit), lost to East 59-22 away, lost to Colony 34-31, defeated West 46-34, lost to Bartlett 30-22, defeated Service 64-12 away, lost to Juneau 42-7 away, and Soldotna 42-41.
No. 7 Service (1-7) lost to East 45-22, West 35-6 away, defeated Dimond 26-20 away, lost to Soldotna 48-34 away, Juneau 49-12, South 64-12, Colony 17-13 away, and to Bartlett 26-22.
No. 8 Dimond (0-7) has lost to South (forfeit), Juneau 35-6 away, Service 26-20, Bartlett 14-8 away, West 35-9, Colony 21-14 away, canceled North Pole, and lost to East 48-7 away.
The ASBN poll for DII/III lists their top five as Lathrop 5-1, Soldotna 6-1, Redington 7-1, Eagle River 6-1, Monroe 6-1.
DII playoffs open Saturday with Soldotna hosting North Pole, and Lathrop hosting Eagle River. The winners play for the DII state championship on Oct. 16 at Service High School in Anchorage.
DIII playoffs open Saturday with Monroe hosting Houston, and Redington hosting Kenai. The winners play for the DIII state championship on Oct. 16 at Service High School in Anchorage.
Above - Juneau will greet Dimond again in the first round of the Alaska School Activities Association Division I State Football Championships on Adair Kennedy Field, Saturday at 3 p.m.