The first half was a grind, but the Juneau Huskies wound up making sausage of the Lynx.
Despite trailing visiting Dimond High School 3-0 for most of the first half, Juneau won its first-round playoff match-up handily by virtue of scoring 31 straight points.
“It’s such a mental challenge in that first playoff game when you’re the favorites because it’s the first time all year that it’s going to end for somebody,” said Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos in a post-game interview. “In three hours, somebody’s done, and it’s an equal playing field for both teams. It’s great to be at home, and that really made a difference in the second half with the crowd noise and pep band and everything to keep us going.”
Juneau had previously beaten Dimond 35-6 in Week 2 en route to a 6-1 regular-season record and conference title. However, Sjoroos has repeatedly emphasized the point the playoffs essentially function as a self-contained season.
“Nobody wants their season to end, you just see a different team —I don’t care what your records are —you just do,” Sjoroos said.
After getting shut out in the first quarter, Juneau’s scoring started with a touchdown from senior Gaby Soto late in the second quarter. The crisscrossing score came on a long scamper off of a short toss.
The second half was all Juneau as Soto and junior running back Sam Sika added scores and senior Wallace Adams kicked a field goal from the 16-yard line. Turnovers, including two from Adams and a fumble recovery by junior Jarrell Williams, and timely tackles helped give the Huskies good field position while keeping the Lynx out of the end zone.
“The defense was just lights out all day,” Sjoroos said. “The amount of energy coach Mitch (Haldane) and Evan (Rothfeld) put into prepping that defense is just at a level that Juneau hasn’t seen in a long, long time —if ever.”
Another rarely seen sight for Juneau —a semi-finals game at Adair-Kennedy Field —is on the horizon.
“It’s the first time ever in Juneau’s history of over 30 years of high school football that we’re going to have a state semi-final playoff game here in Juneau,” Sjoroos said. “I think there’s going to be people here that maybe I didn’t know still lived here next weekend. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.