The Juneau Huskies’ offense looked in midseason form in their season opener on Friday night against Service High School in Anchorage.
The Juneau team featuring players from both Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools scored six touchdowns — including three in the second quarter — in their game against the Cougars. But it wasn’t enough to pull off a win: After completing a first-half comeback, the Huskies gave up the lead in the third quarter en route to a 58-42 loss.
The Huskies averaged just six points per game last season.
“That’s as tough of a season opener as probably we’ve ever had,” Juneau Huskies head coach Rich Sjoroos said after the game. Sjoroos said the travel, warm weather and lack of game experience all worked against his team, but that they kept “playing until the final whistle.”
“They’ve been that way since they were little kids so that’s going to bode well for us as the season goes along,” said Sjoroos, who coached most of the Huskies in the Juneau Youth Football League.
Juneau sophomore running back Gaby Soto led the Huskies with three rushing touchdowns, including two in the first half. Soto’s first two touchdowns of 37 and 16 yards, respectively, allowed Huskies to erase an early 13-0 deficit.
“In the beginning, I was nervous, but after the first play of the game, everything leaves my body and I just play,” Soto said.
Outside linebacker Kamron Falls’ pick-six in the second quarter gave Juneau its largest lead of the game, 27-13.
“That was my first touchdown I’ve ever got and it just felt good,” said Falls, one of the new additions to the team.
The Cougars would respond with two touchdowns to end the half, bringing them within 27-26.
Service’s Damian Johnson and Antonio Kereti started piling on the touchdowns in second half, allowing the Cougars to pull away.
“A big deal is we come out in the second half with the ball and we got to be able to sustain a drive and we weren’t able to do that,” Sjoroos said.
Juneau-Douglas athletic director Chad Bentz said he listened to the entire game on the radio, and was extremly encouraged by how well the team performed.
“I knew that once we hired Rich, the kids, the program, they were going to be in great hands, and he just proved the reason why we hired him,” Bentz said. “Did I expect 42 points (in the first game)? No, I did not. But it doesn’t surprise me. I mean, Rich coached me and he’s very good at getting everything out of his players.”
Soto and Falls both praised the job of the offensive line.
“Our linemen did really good blocking for offense, creating stuff, and then our defense forced a lot of fumbles,” Falls said.
Senior defensive end Cole Jensen said community support has helped bring the Huskies together this season. Over 3,000 people attended the Juneau Alumni Football game back in May that raised funds for the team.
“I think it’s mostly just a different energy around the team itself,” Jensen said of the difference between last year and this one.
The Huskies return to Juneau next week to play Antelope Union High School from southwest Arizona at 7 p.m. Saturday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
“We have a long way to go, but for the first game, it’s impressive for how we did after an 0-8 season and scoring six points a game last year,” Soto said.