Juneau’s Anthony Garcia (22) carries the ball deep into West Anchorage High School territory to set up the Huskies’ first touchdown early in the third quarter during Saturday’s game in Anchorage. (Screenshot from Juneau Huskies football livestream video)

Juneau’s Anthony Garcia (22) carries the ball deep into West Anchorage High School territory to set up the Huskies’ first touchdown early in the third quarter during Saturday’s game in Anchorage. (Screenshot from Juneau Huskies football livestream video)

Depleted Huskies lose at West Anchorage 59-21

JV players make up one-third of Juneau’s squad during matchup against top team in conference.

The Juneau Huskies won the second half by a score of 21-7. Unfortunately, West Anchorage High School won the first half of Saturday’s game on its home field 52-0, thus prevailing by a final score of 59-21 and leaving Juneau 1-6 on the season (and with a last-place 0-6 Cook Inlet Conference record).

West Anchorage, on the other hand, is the top team in the conference at 6-2 overall. The team is 5-1 in the conference, where they’ve outscored their opponents by 230 to 85. Juneau, meanwhile, has scored the fewest points in the conference this year with 101 and allowed the most with 249.

So Saturday’s outcome against the Huskies wasn’t necessarily a surprise. Especially since one-third of the 27 players on the Juneau squad were junior varsity members who were elevated after the cancellation of that game due to a lack of available players.

“I just didn’t have enough eligible healthy players to make a trip to do a varsity and JV game,” said Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos, adding a combination of factors such as injuries and illness resulted in the shortage.

The first half of Saturday’s game, while a prelude to homecoming festivities for West Anchorage, was largely forgettable for Juneau as the home team scored on three opening drives that resulted in touchdown passes. Extra point conversions for all three were missed, giving West Anchorage an 18-0 lead with about four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

“I had a pretty good week of practice, and I felt like we had some good matchups and things that we were hoping to be more productive,” Sjoroos said. “And unfortunately we just couldn’t get off to a good start — and credit to them. We defensively, I thought, held them off pretty good that first drive, but then they hit a long pass to get them out of a third-and-long, and then they scored on a fourth-down play to get points on the board and get the crowd into it, and we just couldn’t match that.”

Juneau finally got going late in the first quarter with a drive into West Anchorage territory, but that stalled. That led to a 34-point second quarter for West Anchorage beginning with a deep pass to the Juneau 2-yard line and, on fourth-and-2, running for another touchdown and two-point conversion to make the score 26-0 with about 10 minutes left in the first half.

The Huskies fumbled on their next possession, with West Anchorage recovering inside the Juneau 2-yard line and scoring on the next play to make the tally 33-0 with 9:30 left in the second quarter. The home team went on to score three more touchdowns before halftime.

Juneau showed a spark after receiving the second-half kickoff, with Anthony Garcia advancing the ball to the West Anchorage 7-yard line on a long run and Hayden Aube, who started at quarterback for the second time this season in place of opening-game starter Noah Ault, scoring on a two-yard keeper. The extra point was missed, leaving the Huskies trailing 52-6.

“The kids responded well, and we outscored them and played a much cleaner second half,” Sjoroos said. “It kind of goes hand-in-hand that if we don’t turn the ball over we’re much more formidable opponent.”

West Anchorage responded with a third-quarter touchdown and extra point. But after the home team had a field goal blocked at the start of the fourth quarter Jayden Johnson gave Juneau a first-and-goal with a long run on a reverse. Juneau called a timeout on fourth-and-goal with 5:46 left in the game and Ault, stepping back in at quarterback, threw a touchdown pass to Jayden Johnson to make the score 59-13 with the extra point.

Another highlight play for the Huskies followed as West Anchorage fumbled the ensuing kickoff inside its 5-yard line and Juneau recovered. On first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, sophomore running back Samuel Sarof ran for his first Huskies touchdown which, with a two-point conversion, resulted in the final score of 59-21.

The Huskies conclude their regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday at home against South Anchorage, which is 2-5 overall this season and a second-to-last 1-5 in the conference, and like Juneau has a two-game losing streak.

“I feel like we can have a good week practice, we’ll be at home and it’ll be the final game on that field for all the seniors, so that should be hopefully some energy just kind of built-in just based on the circumstances that were that are around them,” Sjoroos said.

He said only one playoff seeding in the conference — Bartlett High School ranked sixth — has been determined so far, so the goal now is to enter the postseason on a positive note.

“We definitely want to try and get into the playoffs with some momentum and getting a win over South Anchorage would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal,” Sjoroos said.

Juneau Huskies 2023 schedule

(Note: All times are varsity games; junior varsity games start three hours earlier)

Aug. 12: East Anchorage 21, Juneau 6

Aug. 19: Dimond 40, Juneau 33

Aug. 26: @Bartlett 56, Juneau 21

Sept. 2: @Service 54, Juneau 14

Sept. 8: Juneau 55, @Auburn (Washington) 49

Sept. 15: Colony 19, Juneau 6

Sept. 23: @West Anchorage 59, Juneau 21

Sept. 30: South Anchorage, 3 p.m.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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