Juneau senior Sam Sika is seen in this photo joining the huddle for coach Sjoroos’ pep talk during practice. Sika and the rest of Huskies defense came up big on Saturday’s season opener against the Dimond Lynx in Anchorage. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Juneau senior Sam Sika is seen in this photo joining the huddle for coach Sjoroos’ pep talk during practice. Sika and the rest of Huskies defense came up big on Saturday’s season opener against the Dimond Lynx in Anchorage. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Juneau finds the weak Lynx in Anchorage

Huskies defeat Dimond in 37-0 shut out. Next up is Bartlett at home.

The Juneau Huskies started off the 2022 prep gridiron season by defeating the Dimond Lynx in Anchorage on Saturday in a 37-0 victory.

Dimond won the coin toss, but Juneau countered with a three-and-out defensive stop, and then responded with a 10-play offensive drive, which coach Rich Sjoroos said set a good pace going into the rest of the game.

“Any time, a 10-play drive is great, but to have it be your first play of the season just really showed how hard the kids have been working and the chemistry that they’ve got, hopefully we just keep building on it from there,” Sjoroos said.

The game marked senior Jarrell Williams’ first time standing in as quarterback in a varsity game, but it was hard to tell it was his debut in the pivotal position based on his performance and stat line, according to Sjoroos. Williams completed 11 out of 16 passes, which is impressive enough, said Sjoroos, but even more so under raining conditions

“I was really pleased with his decision making and his toughness, too, because he’s not shy about taking off and running and lowering his shoulder, as well,” said Sjoroos said. “The other piece was if he made a mistake he learned from it really quickly and he didn’t replicate it, he just handled it and so I was impressed, that’s just kind of the athlete that he is, he processes that information pretty quickly, and the few times he might have made an error he didn’t have it happen again.”

Tackling was another key factor all throughout, led by Juneau senior linebacker Lucas White. The Huskies defense managed to hold Dimond to only one run of over 10 yards for the entire game, according to Sjoroos. Juneau’s Sage Richards, Brandon Campbell, Sam Sika and Hunter Derr were also instrumental in closing gaps and limiting big runs for Dimond.

“Our tackling in the open field was on point; other coaches have come up before and said that Juneau, in their minds, is one of the best tackling teams in the state, especially in the open field,” said Sjoroos. “It’s definitely been a focal point during the off season, we gotta be able to stop the other team’s running game, especially if we want to go later into the season and do some damage and fulfill some of the goals that we’ve set. So, the run defense is definitely going to be a big one.”

Senior running back Jamal Johnson also had a great game with 20 carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns, with 8 of those runs consisting of 10 yards or more. Senior Payton Grant had three catches for 35 yards along with another 8 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Next up for the Huskies, they’ll host the Bartlett Golden Bears on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Adair Kennedy Field. Though there was much to celebrate from the victory against Dimond, coach Sjoroos said they’re staying focused on the tough road ahead and along with their strengths, they’re keeping well in mind the areas they can still improve upon.

“Definitely a tough test this week coming up with Bartlett, that team is the real deal, they were one of the top teams in the state last year and they’ve got a lot of guys back,” Sjoroos said. “But all and all, pretty epic start and like I said, a whole different animal this week. First home game and hopefully we’ll get a big energetic crowd and kids have a good week of practice. It should be an exciting week and a great football game Saturday, looking forward to it.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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