Juneau Football’s Maikeli Tupou, left, Kurtis Lee, center, and Caleb Traxler, right, tackle East’s Jason Jenn-Lundfelt at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field on Saturday. East won 40-0. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau Football’s Maikeli Tupou, left, Kurtis Lee, center, and Caleb Traxler, right, tackle East’s Jason Jenn-Lundfelt at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field on Saturday. East won 40-0. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau seeks first win of season in matchup with Lathrop

New team focusing on positives

The Juneau unified football team welcomes another Up North school to town this weekend. A week after a crushing 40-0 loss to East Anchorage, Juneau will test its merit against Lathrop High School on Saturday.

For Juneau Football coach Randy Quinto, it’s another learning opportunity for a program that is only three games old. The football merger has been a learning experience for “both coaching staffs and players,” Quinto said.

Juneau has been outmatched in all three contests this year. Quinto said the losses have prompted the team to clean up its defensive technique and offensive execution. He added the coaching staff has seen good things in the team, too, and is making sure they are aware of them.

“This last weekend was a true positive for that offensive line,” Quinto said. “I think this is the first time that we’ve had a high school game in Juneau where a team hasn’t given up a sack. Not one of our three quarterbacks that we had in there went down so that was pretty impressive.”

Lathrop, of the Railbelt Conference, is coming off its first loss of the season, a 50-21 home defeat at the hands of Soldotna. The Stars were the first team to keep the Malemutes to under six touchdowns — Lathrop opened the season with blowouts over Kenai Central (49-21) and Dimond (53-16).

Third-year Lathrop head coach Luke Balash spoke to the Empire on Thursday from Fairbanks. He credits a healthy senior class for the Malamutes’ dynamic offense. Quarterback Jaden Littell, receivers Juan Mendez and Michael Zadra and running back Brendyn Maschmeier have been firing on all cyclinders, Balash said.

“We don’t maybe have some of the superstar firepower we’ve had in years past as far as big name guys and blazing speed and all those kind of things,” Balash said. “But what we did have coming in is a group of seniors that have been together for a really long time. They’ve got great chemistry and they certainly got enough athletic ability to hurt people and score touchdowns.”

Balash cautioned his team against taking Juneau too lightly. Balash said any team in the state would struggle against the team’s Juneau’s faced in the last three weeks.

“They played Palmer at Palmer — that’s a tough place to play — and Palmer always plays good defense,” he said. “And then they played West Anchorage who probably has the best defense in the state and then they played East (Anchorage) who probably has the second-best defense in the state.”

The junior varsity game is slated for 4 p.m. while the varsity kick-off is at 7 p.m. Both games will be played at Thunder Mountain High School. Ticket prices for adults are $10 and for seniors and students are $5.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.

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