Juneau Huskies Ground High Flying East Thunderbirds

    Juneau's Sam Sika (13), Hunter Derr (44), Payton Grant (9) and Jack Gregson (34) stop East running back Amosa Sou (7) during the Huskies 39-28 win over the Thunderbirds on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field. (Klas Stolpe)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau’s high school football team grounded top-ranked East Anchorage on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field, with the Huskies staking a 39-28 claim on the Thunderbirds No. 1 Alaska ranking.

      “It was a great day of football,” Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos said. “I think anybody that listened on the radio, watched on the web stream or showed up in person was treated to a great football game today. East showed why they are the No. 1 team in the state for large stretches of that game, they made big plays.”

      The Juneau defense stifled East on the Thunderbirds first possession, forcing a punt that gave Juneau the ball on their own 43 yard line. The Huskies got down to the East 29 but fumbled.

      East drove from their own 26 to the Juneau 13, where Thunderbirds senior quarterback Kyler Johnson, the state’s leading passer, hit senior Deuce Zimmerman for a score and junior Douglas Samuelu kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter.

      Juneau struck right back as senior Gaby Soto returned the kickoff to the 40 and senior quarterback Noah Chambers orchestrated a drive that included multiple runs by Soto and junior Jamal Johnson, who ran in for a four yard score. Senior Wallace Adams kicked the extra point for 7-7 with 2:19 left.

      East followed suit moving from their own 34 to the Juneau 18 where K. Johnson connected with senior Damarion Delaney for a 21-yard passing touchdown and a 13-7 lead. An East penalty after the play moved the extra point back to the 20 and Johnson passed into the end zone to Zimmerman for a two-point conversion and a 15-7 advantage.

      Juneau dominated the second quarter after senior James Connally ran the kick off back to the 36. Soto ran for three yards and Chambers connected with junior Lucas White for 20 more.

      “I’m happy everybody played four quarters and played hard,” White said after the game. “It’s just great seeing everybody play hard every play and not giving up halfway through the game.”

      J. Johnson ran for five yards and Chambers kept the ball himself for a first down run. Soto and Adams both had big gains and at first-and-goal from the 5 yard line, Soto broke into the end zone to pull the Huskies within two points at 13-15. Adams kicked his second extra point to draw within one point.

      “Two years ago we were considered a team that could only play one good half and in the second half go down hill,” Wallace Adams said after the game. “And then we saw that last week with West, we were leading at half and then in the second half we went down. But this week we proved ourselves. This is a team that is not going to give up and coach has been saying that since day one. That’s what is different about us. We are not going to give up and we give everything and that’s why we ended the game so strong. Last week we were missing tons of guys. This team needs everybody. This is a small town and when we come together we can do powerful things. Having everybody back, it shows, you know, we beat a team with 70-80 guys. This means everything to us.”

      Adams blasted the kick off into the end zone forcing East to start from their own 20 with 9:50 remaining in the half. Juneau’s defense gave up three first downs in the drive but forced a fourth-and-two at the 49 and junior Sam Sika made a huge tackle to give the Huskies possession.

      Soto, J. Johnson and junior Payton Grant touched the ball on consecutive plays and Soto ran in his second score of the game from six yards out with 2:06 remaining. Adams hit his third extra point for a 21-15 lead.

      East mounted their own drive, moving from their 20 down to the Juneau 6 but Huskies junior defensive back Jarrell Williams intercepted an East pass in the end zone to secure the lead at the half.

      “I thought our kids did a nice job of settling in and we had a great second quarter,” Sjoroos said. “Then East came out and responded in the third quarter, and then got a lead in the fourth. I thought our kids did a great job of not hanging their heads and responding and realizing that ‘hey, we are right there with these guys.’ That’s all we preached all week. ‘Lets’s make this a four quarter game. Let’s make East think about things.’ To get that interception right before halftime was a big boost for us.”

      East had the only score in the third quarter. Juneau had first possession but was intercepted at the East 12 yard line with 6:22 remaining.

      The Thunderbirds’ K. Johnson drove his team down to the 4 yard line where he connected with junior Alphonso Dyett to tie the score at 21-21 with 3:23 remaining but East would miss the extra point attempt.

      Juneau stalled on their possession and East carried the ball over to the fourth quarter.

      The Thunderbirds moved from their own 31 down to the Juneau 2 yard line where junior Puni Pa’u broke through for a 27-21 lead and Samuelu kicked the extra point for 28-21 with 8:31 left in the game.

      Juneau’s Soto returned the kickoff to the East 49 yard line and Chambers began to orchestrate the Huskies forward.

      A Soto run, a pass towards Connally, a pass to Soto, a J. Johnson run, a carry by senior James Buker and a big bruising run by Sika to the Juneau 24. Two more runs by Soto and passes to Adams and Connally set up Adams to run in from the 4 yard line and pull the Huskies within one point, 27-28, with 3:46 remaining. Soto carried the ball over for a two-point conversion and a 29-28 lead.

      East’s Zimmerman broke a long run on the Thunderbirds next possession but Juneau senior Kaden Messmer tackled him from behind to save a score and Williams snared his second interception of the game on the next play giving the Huskies the ball on the East 32 with 2:55 remaining.

      Soto carried the ball on consecutive runs and scored from a yard out. Chambers passed to Grant for the two-point conversion and a 37-28 lead with 2:09 left.

      “For our whole team and everybody that is involved in Juneau sports, they know how big it is to beat an Anchorage team,” Chambers said after the game. “I am just glad I did it with these guys. We’re not the biggest, we’re not the strongest but when we come to play it really shows. We limited our mistakes. The thing we did differently this week is when we made a mistake, which is inevitable in a football game, we didn’t hang our heads on it and we just came out and kept playing good, that’s all you can do.”

      Chambers said he was proud of the team.

      “But especially my linemen,” he said. “They were getting banged up. They had dudes twice their size and they just kept blocking, kept going, didn’t complain about it once. I’m so proud of them.”

      The Huskies offensive line includes seniors Landon Guthrie, Sione Veikoso, Mathias Wiederspohn, Nathan Burkhart and junior Brandon Campbell. The Huskies defensive line includes juniors Sika and Hunter Derr, and seniors Wyatt Harvey and Wiederspohn.

      With 1:33 remaining in the game, Messmer and Derr combined to tackle East’s quarterback in the Thunderbirds end zone for a two-point safety and the final 39-28 score.

      East would have to kickoff but recovered an onside kick at the Juneau 43. The Thunderbirds All-State, college scholarship quarterback moved the ball to the 25. With 47 seconds remaining Juneau defensive lineman Sika snagged an interception and dethroned the top seed in the state.

      “It’s really intense,” Wiederspohn said after the game. “They have really strong, big guys so you just have to bring the same intensity and go after them as hard as you can. It’s really exciting to be able to go against those level of guys because they are so good and it just makes you better as a player too. I just hope we go up from here. There is nothing else. You set the bar, like coach Sjoroos says, ‘you set the bar high and keep pushing yourself past that.’ Every week we set the bar.”

      Juneau next plays at Service on Sept. 11 and at Bartlett Sept. 18 before hosting South Anchorage on Sept. 25. Playoffs begin with quarterfinals Oct. 8-9 and semifinals Oct. 15-16, both at the higher seed. The state championship is Oct. 22 at Anchorage Football Stadium.

      “Our kids are a special group,” Sjoroos said. “I have been saying that for quite a while now. They lived up to it. The coaches did a great job preparing. I thought the crowd was great today with the energy and the noise and it just made me proud to be a part of Juneau football today.”


    Juneau   7 - 14 - 0 - 18  = 39

    East      15 -  0 - 7 -   6  = 28


    1ST QTR

    4:26 - Thunderbirds - Johnson 13-yard pass to Zimmerman. Samuelu PAT. 7-0.

    2:19 - Huskies - Johnson 4-yard run. Adams PAT. 7-7.

    0:37.5 - Thunderbirds - Johnson 21-yard pass to Delaney. 2-pt conversion Johnson to Zimmerman. 15-7.

    2ND QTR

    9:50 - Huskies - Soto 5-yard run. Adams PAT. 14-15.

    2:06 - Huskies - Soto 6-yard run. Adams PAT. 21-15.

    3RD QTR

    3:23 - Thunderbirds - Johnson 4-yard pass to Dyett. PAT no good. 21-21.

    4TH QTR

    8:31 - Thunderbirds - Pa’u 2-yard run. Samuelu PAT. 28-21.

    3:46 - Huskies - Adams 4-yard run. Soto 2-pt conversion. 29-28.

    2:09 - Huskies - Soto 1-yard run. 2-pt conversion Chambers to Grant. 37-28.

    1:33 - Huskies - Messmer/Derr safety. 39-28

    Above - Juneau defensive backs Jarrell Williams (1) and Wallace Adams (84) break up a pass intended for East receiver Deuce Zimmerman during the Huskies 39-28 win over the Thunderbirds on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field.

    Above - Juneau fullback Sam Sika is tackled by East defenders Deuce Zimmerman (3), Buster Stubbs (23) and Calvin Aioso (14) during the Huskies 39-28 win over the Thunderbirds on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field.

    Above - Juneau senior Kadin Messmer (2) and junior Hunter Derr (44) celebrate their safety tackle of East senior quarterback Kyler Johnson (10) during the Huskies 39-28 win over the Thunderbirds on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field.

    Above - Juneau senior quarterback Noah Chambers (8) signals as time runs out during the Huskies 39-28 win over the East Anchorage Thunderbirds on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field.

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