It wasn’t always pretty, but when the final whistle blew, the Juneau Huskies were on the winning side of a 35-6 football game.
Juneau’s unified high school football team bested Dimond High School in a sometimes chippy affair to improve the Huskies’ record to 2-0.
Here are six takeaways from the second game of Juneau’s 2021 season and what’s happening in Week 3.
— A tale of two halves
While Juneau enjoyed a 21-6 advantage at the half, the Lynx threatened to narrow that gap several times throughout the first half.
The first two quarters saw the two teams trade turnovers, Dimond recover an onside kick and the Lynx rack up multiple first downs due to penalties on the Huskies defense.
“To see that happen was a little frustrating,” said Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos in a phone interview.
However, he said playing with more discipline was a point of emphasis from the first quarter on, and the team responded.
“We didn’t get off to as fast of a start as we did the week before,” Sjoroos said.“We played a lot cleaner in the second half than we did in the first half. I thought we finished the game well.”
— Responding to adversity
Throughout the game, the Huskies rose to meet challenges.
After Dimond recovered an onside kick, Juneau forced and recovered a fumble. After multiple offside penalties early in the game, the Huskies defense stayed disciplined on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. A big fourth-down stop prevented a turnover from yielding points for Dimond in the third quarter. When the Lynx were threatening to score in the fourth, the Huskies defense managed to sack the quarterback for a big loss, and Dimond ultimately did not score outside of the first quarter.
“Our kids just seemed to respond each time,” Sjoroos said.
— Staying grounded
While two out of five of Juneau’s touchdowns came through the air, most of the Huskies’ yardage came via run.
Throughout the game, running backs Gaby Soto, a senior, and Jamal Johnson, a junior, reliably picked up yards. Soto scored twice and Johnson scored once as well.
Sjoroos said Juneau tried to incorporate more of its passing attack during the game, but didn’t find as much success through the air as the Huskies did against Colony High School.
“We weren’t really able to get the passing game going like we were in Week 1,” Sjoroos said.
There were a few catchable balls that Juneau skills players failed to secure, but Sjoroos said Dimond’s skilled defenders played a part in limiting passing, too.
“When we’re throwing out of desire instead of out necessity, we’re going to be much more dangerous,” Sjoroos said.
Still, the Huskies were twice able to find the end zone via passes.
James Connally, a senior, opened the scoring for the Huskies with a dramatic catch and score that saw him carry a Dimond defender toward the goal line while extending the ball. Chris Harris, a junior, also secured a short touchdown pass from quarterback Noah Chambers.
— A big stop…
A long interception return nearly led to a Dimond touchdown early in the second half.
However, after a short drive by the Lynx, the Juneau defense was able to stop them from scoring leading to a dramatic fourth-and-goal tackle by Brandon Campbell.
“We kind of seized momentum back with that goal line stand,” Sjoroos said. “For us to be able to stop that was big.”
— …led to a long drive
The Huskies followed up the big stop by driving the length of the field in 10 plays and scoring.
“It was just a good solid drive, especially for this early in the year,” Sjoroos said. “It was nothing more than consistent 7-10-yard plays down the field.”
It was capped by a short rushing touchdown from Soto.
— Nose and toes for the ball
For the second week in a row Wallace Adams, a senior, recorded an interception.
Adams, who kicks for the Huskies and also plays wide receiver, leapt high to pick off the ball late in the second quarter.
Sjoroos said Adams is a defender who has a nose for the ball.
“His sophomore year, he was also a starting safety,” Sjoroos said, noting that Adams ended the season with something like eight interceptions. “He comes out and he’s got one in each of his first two games this year.”
Adams also went 5-for-5 on extra-point attempts while consistently producing touchbacks on kickoffs.
Sjoroos said he’s a contributor on offense, too.
“I don’t think he ever left the field last game,” he said.
— On the road again
Juneau’s next scheduled game is Saturday at West Anchorage High School. Junior varsity is set to kick off at noon, and varsity kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
“I’m excited to get into Week 3. It’s going to be our first week on the road,” Sjoroos said.
He said the ongoing pandemic creates some uncertainty around travel, but noted the first two games have been able to happen and Juneau will be preparing to play a “very tough” West Anchorage team.
“We’ll keep going until they tell us otherwise,” Sjoroos said.
The game is expected to be available to stream through https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/.
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt