Kodiak was down seven points and a QB before some fans even made it to their seats Friday night.
And yet, thanks in part to a big fourth quarter by Kodiak’s Joel Francisco, the Bears had a chance to tie Thunder Mountain High School with under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter at a drier-than-expected TMHS field.
Francisco, who scored a touchdown on the proceeding possession, intercepted a pass along the left sideline. The Bears didn’t find much yardage after that, however, and the 14-7 score in favor of the Falcons was preserved. TMHS sacked backup quarterback Dosey Berry on back-to-back downs to force one final punt.
“It’s the backbone of this team right now,” TMHS coach Randy Quinto said about the defense. “Coach Derek (Loftstrom) has got these guys flying around and doing a really good job.”
It was the first win of the season for TMHS after losing in Week 1, 3-0, to South Anchorage. The Falcons enter a bye week before they return to their home field play Juneau-Douglas High School in a non-conference game Sept. 1.
In the second play of the game, the Bears fumbled the ball in the backfield near the 20 yard line. The ball rolled upfield several yards before senior Roy Tupou gathered it and went straight to the end zone.
With just 57 seconds taken off the clock, the Falcons went up 7-0. Noah Heidersdorf made the extra point for TMHS.
Later in the first quarter, senior quarterback Shaun Walton, who threw for 132 yards in Week 1, left the game with an apparent leg injury. On a second and 12, Walton juggled a snap, and unable to hand the ball off to his intended target, was mobbed by a tackler after a desperation gain. Walton limped off the field, and watched the rest of the game sitting alone on an aluminum bench with his leg propped up.
Berry played the rest of the game at quarterback.
“We had to throw half of the playbook out, we brought in a freshman,” Kodiak head coach Bill McGuire said. “He did a nice job, Thunder Mountain — they got after us … we had trouble protecting the quarterback.”
After the brazen start to the game, TMHS couldn’t turn out another touchdown, and the score remained 7-0 at halftime.
“We came in at halftime and we decided we needed to pound the rock a little bit, control the line of scrimmage, and build a little confidence with those guys up front,” Quinto said. “We were up 7-nothing at halftime and the guys were kinda down like they were losing, and so we had to pump them back up like, ‘Hey, you guys are actually winning the game, let’s go, control this game right now.’”
The team heeded their coach’s advice. TMHS began the second half with a 55 yard drive initiated with several Tupou runs.
“I think they started leaving the middle open, so we just kept pounding the middle until they’d get sucked in,” Tupou said.
On the fourth play of the drive, with the ball on the Falcons’ 47 yard line, Owen Mendoza faked a hand off out of the shotgun formation. Running right, the senior threw 30 yards to an airborne Hansel Hinckle, picking up 34 yards on the play.
The Bears, who sport a 26-man roster, denied Mendoza’s next passing attempt though, this time to Tapia.
Freshman Noah Heidersdorf’s 31-yard field goal attempt missed the mark, but TMHS would get the ball back later the quarter.
After a Tupou interception, the home team made good on their second try of the half. Mendoza used his feet on a 40 yard run down the left sideline. Moments later, the QB found junior wideout Caleb Traxler for 10-yard touchdown.
“It’s his first game this year, but he stepped up really well,” Tupou said of Mendoza.
The score remained 14-0 at the close of the third quarter.
Despite several incomplete passes, Kodiak sustained its fourth quarter drive with several TMHS penalities. Francisco made a clean catch on the goal line before tripping his way into the end zone for the Bears’ only score.
For a recap on Juneau-Douglas High School’s Saturday night football game against Ketchikan, go to JuneauEmpire.com/sports or look in Tuesday’s newspaper.