One way or another this was going to be a game Hayden Aube never forgot.
The junior running back who found himself filling in at quarterback for the Juneau Huskies on a road trip to Washington state scored the winning touchdown in double overtime to defeat Auburn High School 55-49 in a back-and-forth shootout. His score capped a drive he kept alive by drawing the defense offside with a hard count on third-and-long — a show of poise after he fumbled and lost the ball twice near the goal line in the fourth quarter, the second with less than two minutes remaining.
But instead of facing a long trip home pondering those plays, Aube ended the game mobbed in the back of the end zone under a pile of his teammates after winning their first game of the season. They defeated an Auburn team that was undefeated 3A North Puget Sound League champion last season and had opened this season with a 14-12 defensive battle victory.
The Huskies — who came within a touchdown of last year’s state title and are 1-4 this season at the end of a three-game road trip — next return home for another Friday night game against Colony High School in a rematch of last year’s state title game.
Aube started at quarterback in place of Noah Ault, who was injured in last week’s game against Service High School. Juneau head coach Rich Sjoroos said Aube was far from the only player who stepped up during Friday night’s game due to injuries.
“There’s so many different kids that stepped up and made plays,” he said. “We literally had to get kids suited up from the JV squad during the game to help sub in for guys who were getting hurt from the varsity squad, just to keep enough kids for special teams and some of the other things that we needed to do throughout the game. So I’m just proud of the kids for really being locked in, it’s the most I’ve seen that all year.”
The game saw Juneau soar to dazzling highs as the team jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and drop to dim lows as Auburn stormed back to take a 36-34 lead toward the end of the third quarter. But Juneau quickly responded with a touchdown run from midfield by senior running back Anthony Garcia and converted the extra point to take a 42-36 lead. Auburn responded with its own quick strike using a no-huddle offense, but missed the extra point to leave the game tied at 42-42 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
The teams then battled to a draw in a scoreless fourth quarter that nonetheless was filled with drama.
After Aube’s first fumble on a shotgun snap at the 5-yard-line, Auburn drove to midfield before they were stopped inches short of the measurement stick on a fourth down play. Juneau drove again inside the Auburn 5-yard-line, but Aube was hit on a quarterback keeper and lost the ball at the 1-yard-line trying to get into the end zone, with the home team then unable to move the ball far before the end of regulation.
Juneau had the ball first in overtime, with Garcia scoring on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard-line and Juneau kicking the extra point to make the score 49-42. Auburn responded with its own touchdown and appeared momentarily to seal the win by running in a two-point conversion, but a penalty moved the team back and they settled for kicking an extra point to send the game to a second overtime.
Auburn had the ball first in the second overtime, but a sack led to a third-and-long pass that was intercepted by junior Jayden Johnson to give the Huskies the opportunity to win the game with the scoring drive led by Aube that followed.
“For him to bounce back from that, I had complete trust in him,” Sjoroos said of Aube’s game-winning drive. “And on the overtime you know he’s going to squeeze that ball tight and get it across the goal line…And it was great for him to get the winning touchdown, to kind of bounce back from some of the struggles he had towards the end of the game, and I just couldn’t be more proud of what he did.”
Sjoroos, noting this was the first overtime game of his long coaching career, said it was also “probably one of the most fun games I’ve ever coached.”
“I’ve been coaching for 30 years and I thought that was just one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen from a team,” he said. “You get off to a tough start this year and be able to keep their composure go on the road in a very tough environment where there this very loud stadium, a lot of noise in there, and get off to a great start. We hadn’t been able to do that all year. So that was really important and gave the kids a lot of confidence. And then we weathered the storm when they came back and got the lead on us in the second half.”
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, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23: @West Anchorage, 2 p.m.
Sept. 30: South Anchorage, 3 p.m.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 957-2306.