Juneau’s Wallace Adams, a senior, trudges forward while draped in East Anchorage defenders. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s Wallace Adams, a senior, trudges forward while draped in East Anchorage defenders. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

7 points: Huskies outlast East Anchorage

Takeaways from Saturday’s game and a look ahead.

The Juneau Huskies were in familiar territory at halftime.

The unified Juneau high school football team, for the second week in a row, enjoyed a narrow advantage over a talented Anchorage team. However, while the Huskies faded against West Anchorage on the road, they were able to keep the pressure on in the second half and ultimately prevail at home against East Anchorage High School.

The 39-28 victory improves Juneau’s record to 3-1 both overall and within the Cook Inlet Conference. Here are seven takeaways from the win and upcoming games.

Different week, different outcome

Last week, Juneau went into the half with a 15-14 lead against West Anchorage High School. That turned into a lopsided loss.

[7 points: Despite solid first half, West takes the Huskies down]

Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos said finishing the game strong and securing a win was a focal point of halftime discussions.

“We talked at halftime that we had the lead, but we also had the lead the week before, so we need to make sure we improve in the second half,” Sjoroos said in a post-game interview. “I think especially in the fourth quarter we were really able to get things rolling offensively, and then defensively get a couple of stops and get off the field.”

Juneau’s Gaby Soto, a senior, runs down the sideline pursued by East Anchorage High School defenders. Soto intentionally ended his long, late-fourth-quarter run short of the goal line, but would subsequently rush for a touchdown. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s Gaby Soto, a senior, runs down the sideline pursued by East Anchorage High School defenders. Soto intentionally ended his long, late-fourth-quarter run short of the goal line, but would subsequently rush for a touchdown. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Seesaw scoring

While Juneau led at the half and the end of the final frame, they weren’t up throughout game.

Each half saw lead changes, quick scores, red zone turnovers and big gains. How tight was the game? Going into the fourth quarter, the contest was tied at 21. With just over 3 minutes remaining, Juneau clawed out a 29-28 lead via a Gaby Soto rush for a 2-point conversion. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that big defensive plays and an opportunistic offense gave enough cushion for the Huskies to take a victory formation.

Sjoroos said East Anchorage was “the No. 1 team in the state for a reason.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of everyone,” Sjoroos said.

Containing a dangerous offense

The Thunderbird’s quarterback Kyler Johnson, a senior, made big plays with his arms and legs all day and East receiver Deuce Zimmerman, a senior, reliably found seams in the secondary for big gains.

Sjoroos said East Anchorage is a good football team with a lot of talent.

“They’re tough all the way around,” Sjoroos said. “They’re literally one snap away from exploding every time —offense or defense. I just thought it was a great job by our coaching staff. Our players responded with a great week of practice, and it was reflected on the football field here. I just thought we stayed aggressive today.”

Three times two

Going for 2 points following touchdowns was part of staying aggressive Sjoroos said.

Soto’s rushing score was one of two conversions. A leaping Payton Grant reception that gave Juneau a 9-point lead was the other. That scoring play required quarterback Noah Chambers to buy some time with his legs, a big jump from Grant as well as concentration to keep his feet in bounds.

Juneau’s Payton Grant, a junior, corrals the ball while leaping to secure a two-point conversion for the Huskies. Those two points gave Juneau a two-possession advantage. It was Juneau’s second 2-point conversion of the game. Juneau Coach Rich Sjoroos called the play, which required some scrambling from senior quarterback Noah Chambers, the Huskies’ offensive play of the game. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s Payton Grant, a junior, corrals the ball while leaping to secure a two-point conversion for the Huskies. Those two points gave Juneau a two-possession advantage. It was Juneau’s second 2-point conversion of the game. Juneau Coach Rich Sjoroos called the play, which required some scrambling from senior quarterback Noah Chambers, the Huskies’ offensive play of the game. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“It gave us a chance to go up two scores,” Sjoroos said. “I figured at that point, let’s make it happen, and what a great play. On offense, that was probably our play of the game.”

Kadin Messmer, a senior, and Hunter Derr, a junior, also put 2 points on the board by sacking Johnson in East Anchorage’s end zone for a safety.

No. 1 picks

As the second quarter wound down, the Thunderbirds were marching the ball down the field.

With the Huskies up by six points, less than a second remaining in the half and East Anchorage on the 6-yard line, the Thunderbirds opted to pass.

The ball found its way to the hands of Juneau’s Jarrell Williams, a junior who wears No. 1, who opted to take a knee to end the half rather than attempt a risky interception return.

In the fourth quarter with less than 3 minutes remaining, Williams again picked off Johnson. Williams ran the ball back to the end zone, whipping the crowd into a frenzy in the process, but the return was called back because of a block in the back. The Huskies would score on the subsequent drive, securing a two-possession lead.

Sam Sika, a junior, also contributed an interception late in the game for the Huskies to go long with a big catch and key fourth-down stop.

Punching above their weight

While East Anchorage had Juneau beat in sheer size, the Huskies tackled well and ran through contact.

Sjoroos said being on the wrong side of a height, weight or numbers comparison isn’t new for the Huskies, and it’s something players and coaches work hard to overcome.

“We’re under-sized against pretty much every team that we play,” Sjoroos said. “Whether it be sheer numbers of kids, the size of the guys on the line, our running backs are smaller than their running backs, our receivers are shorter than their guys. We just say, they put 11 guys out there, only one guy is going to have the ball in his hands, and we have to get him down. We just got to block our guy, stay in front of him. Make them go through us to get their tackle, which is what we try to do and preach, and they responded well.”

East Anchorage’s Andrew Montenegro and a pack of Huskies pursue a loose ball during an onside kick. The long roll left East with poor field position. Juneau capitalized on it with a sack for a safety. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

East Anchorage’s Andrew Montenegro and a pack of Huskies pursue a loose ball during an onside kick. The long roll left East with poor field position. Juneau capitalized on it with a sack for a safety. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Up next

Juneau has away games scheduled for each of the next two Saturdays.

The Huskies are slotted to play at Service High School on Sept. 11. Varsity kickoff is set for 3 p.m., and junior varsity at noon.

The next week, they’re scheduled to play Bartlett High School before returning to Adair-Kennedy Field on Sept. 25.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in Sports

Alwen Carrillo, one of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé boy’s basketball team captains, dribbles during practice on Dec. 15, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Juneau boys basketball hitting the road

One team is bound for Anchorage, the other for Utqiagvik

A basketball sits ready for play at Thunder Mountain High School on Dec. 7, 2021. Starting this week, Juneau’s high school basketball and hockey players may participate in enhanced COVID-19 screenings rather than wear a mask while playing. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Prep sports teams breathe easier

New testing options let players drop masks.

Soldotna’s Gehret Medcoff prepares to enter the zone with teammate Daniel Heath against Juneau-Douglas on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi hockey tops Juneau

SOLDOTNA — The Soldotna hockey team defeated Juneau-Douglas 4-2 on Thursday in… Continue reading

The 1997-1998 Klawock boys basketball team. The author is in the back, the third player from the right. (Courtesy Photo)
I Went to the Woods: Region V memories

I Went to the Woods goes to the hardwood.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé junior Kai Hargrave collects his plaque from softball coach Lexie Razor after being named the boy's free-throw champ at the Princess Tours Capital City Classic on Dec. 30. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)
Another ‘Classic’ is in the books

JDHS girls win, local players earn tournament honors

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Dec. 24

Quick recaps for local teams.

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Jan. 14

Quick recaps for local teams.

Alwen Carrillo, player for the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, dribbles during practice on Dec. 14, 2021. Both JDHS teams will compete in the Capital City Classic beginning on Dec. 27, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Happy ball-idays: Teams ready for Princess Capital City Classic

Teams from near and far will face down on the basketball court after Christmas.

teaser
Scores at a glance for the week of Dec. 17

Quick recaps for local teams.

Erlyn Penalosa of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls varsity basketball team advances downcourt during practice on Dec. 14, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
JDHS girls basketball team starting season swinging

A junior- and senior-heavy roster make for a formidable team.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé varsity boys basketball players Orion Dybdahl, left and Jake Sleppy, right contest a jump ball from Coach Robert Caspersons during a practice on Dec. 14, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
JDHS boys basketball gets ready to hit the road

Their first games this year will be away —way, way away.