This article has been updated to include new information.
The Juneau Huskies finished the regular season undefeated —but not without some last-minute drama.
A short-handed unified Juneau high school football team held a lead late in the fourth quarter of an away game at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School, but with the Thunderbirds driving, the Huskies’ 19-14 advantage was hardly decisive. However, a fourth-down pass thrown with less than 30 seconds left in the game found the ground instead of a receiver’s hands following a good read on the ball and tough defense from senior Jarrell Williams.
After the turnover on downs, Juneau was just seconds away from victory in a game that was both senior night and homecoming for East and a rematch of last year’s Division 1 state title game.
With the win, the Huskies finish the regular season with an 8-0 record overall and a 7-0 record in the Cook Inlet Conference and a conference title.
“I told them after the game I was probably the most proud I’ve ever been of a group of guys,” said coach Rich Sjoroos, noting the team overcame considerable adversity to win the game.
Only 22 players suited up for Saturday’s game, Sjoroos said, and the team had to contend with the “usual curveballs of Alaska football,” in the form of multiple flight delays. Add in a hyped-up crowd and an East team Sjoroos said has “been tough all year,” and the Huskies had their work cut out.
Williams, who in addition to defending the final pass also scored three touchdowns, was a major contributor to the winning effort. Thomas Baxter, a junior who just finished his first regular season of football, and senior Lucas White also pitched in on the ground. Sjoroos also highlighted the efforts of players — including senior Matt Spratt and junior Anthony Garcia — who stepped up significantly with only 22 players available.
“I thought they really rose up to the challenge,” Sjoroos said.
With the regular season in the rear-view mirror, Sjoroos said the Huskies are back to 0-0 as they enter the playoffs.
As the conference’s No.1 seed, Juneau is poised to host the No. 8 seed in the first round of the playoffs, according to Alaska School Activities Association’s playoff schedule. South Anchorage High School finished in that spot following a 12-3 loss to Dimond High School.
The Huskies beat South 35-13 in an away game in their last meeting. The Wolverines finished the season with a record of 0-8 overall and 0-7 in the conference.
Sjoroos previously told the Empire kickoff for that game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.
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