Call them butter because the Juneau Huskies are on a roll after defeating the West Valley High School Rams on Friday night 21-14. The Huskies remain undefeated and now sit 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Cook Inlet Conference.
Coach Rich Sjoroos said while he was proud of the team, he had to acknowledge it was a hard win against a tough team from Washington state. Sjoroos added that there were a number of plays throughout that were impactful and ultimately led to the win.
“It was a great win against a good football team, that’s a 4A school from Washington, they’ve got a lot of seniors and that quarterback’s the real deal and they’ve got good receivers, so that’s only going to make us a better team going forward,” Sjoroos said. “There’s a lot of game situations tonight that were super meaningful, special teams plays and third down plays and fourth down plays, just a lot of communication and things that needed to go on to get that win and so I feel like we walked away a smarter team and that’s the kind of stuff you’re looking for in these games.”
The first quarter ended with no score on the board until West Valley managed to score on the opening drive of the second quarter, but the extra point was blocked, making the score 6-0. The Rams wouldn’t maintain the lead for long, however, because with nine minutes left in the second quarter Jarrell Williams managed to score with a short run bringing the score up to 7-6.
The Huskies defense as usual held their ground, making some big tackles from Eric Tipton throughout along with two interceptions in the second quarter by Thomas Baxter and Chris Harris. Williams threw deep down the field to connect with Jayden Johnson for a touchdown, bringing the score up to 14-6 by the end of the half.
Coming back into the third quarter, West Valley started to build more momentum by scoring another touchdown and picking up the two-point conversion to tie the score at 14-14. Sjoroos said a lot of the credit to staying focused went to coach Evan Rothfeld for sticking to his game plan and trusting his instincts.
“I thought we were as disciplined on defense as we could be with as good as Washington is, that quarterback can buy time, make good throws, can throw it all over the field, they had really good receivers, we had to cover for long periods of time,” Sjoroos said. “I just thought coach Evan just stuck to his plan and he knows what he’s doing and we just stay out of his way and let him call the game, I thought he did great again. It’s awesome to see how these guys perform under his leadership.”
By the fourth quarter the Huskies got creative and brought Sam Sika in from defense to run the ball for offense, which turned out to be a decision that would make all the difference as Sika managed to rumble his way into the end zone with over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, giving the Huskies the lead again at 21-14. Sjoroos said the decision to bring in Sika to offense was largely due to the fact that Jamal Johnson was out of the game with a leg contusion.
“We brought Sika in for the fourth quarter, and he was the difference-maker,” Sjoroos said. “Those big runs up the middle and being able to take some of the pressure off of Jarrell in the running game, I loved the way the line got behind him and just said, ‘Hey, we got you, let’s pound this thing inside, inside, inside and get over the goal line.’ We got the lead back and defense held up good.”
Though Williams managed to connect with Johnson for a long touchdown pass, the name of the game for the Huskies remained their run game throughout. Sjoroos said that as tempting as it was at times to try passing, they knew in the long run it would pay off to stick with tried and true methods, especially in the last quarter.
“You gotta throw those in there and we tried in the second half to get a couple of them in there, even we decided in the fourth quarter, we thought we could use the three downs running to get the first down or we can try to get some pass plays, but their DBs are good and so if we don’t complete then we’ve only got two downs to get the first down,” Sjoroos said. “That’s why we decided we were going to shelve the passing game right now, even though they were really starting to creep up at the end and it was so tempting to throw another one over the top, but we just had to just stick with it and some of those first downs weren’t by much but that’s just what we needed to keep the sticks moving and none bigger than that last one with two minutes left to go. Super proud of the guys and on to South Anchorage next week.”
Up next: The Huskies will head to Anchorage to take on South Anchorage High School on Saturday. Juneau’s next home game is set for Sept. 24 against Service High School. Varsity will kick off at 3 p.m. for its senior night game.
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at email@example.com