Juneau unified high school football team. (Courtesy Photo | Gretchen Kriegmont)

Juneau unified high school football team. (Courtesy Photo | Gretchen Kriegmont)

Juneau unified football team to open season in Palmer

Coaches hope quickness will make up for lack of size

The Juneau unified football team ships up to Palmer this weekend for its season opener. Here’s a quick look at what to expect from Juneau’s newest sports team, which plays in its first home games in two weeks against East Anchorage High School.

Strengths and weaknesses

The team boasts four quarterbacks — seniors Thomas Willhoite and Max Wheat, sophomore Cooper Kriegmont and freshman Noah Chambers. Head coach Randy Quinto said it’s the deepest he’s ever been at that position. Wheat, who started five games last season for Juneau-Douglas High School, brings the most experience but may be used more at wide receiver.

What the team lacks in size it makes up for in speed, particularly among its seniors. Hansel Hinckle and Cristian Batac will display their quickness at the wide receiver position, while Caleb Traxler will do the same at running back.

“I will say overall the team speed is really good, speed kills, you know?” Phil Isaak, the offensive coordinator, said. “We’re a little small but that’ll change. We’re just getting going. JD lost almost all their starting linemen and Thunder Mountain lost almost their starting linemen and we kind of have to start from scratch.”

JDHS graduated 12 players and TMHS graduated 13 players from last season. Included in that mix were key playmakers like Lance Fenumiai and Roy Tupou, but also linemen like Ivan Williams and John Elisoff.

Defensive line coach Jeff Hedges said he’s confident players will step in to fill those spots.

“Our quarterbacks, our receivers, our running backs, the team speed that we have — that’s our hallmark, that’s our calling card. And it’s going to be the same, offense and defense,” he said. “We don’t have the biggest guys, but we have speed, so we’re going to get there before they do.”

Noah Heidersdorf, Marcos Yadao, Cole Jensen and William Skinna will be featured on the offensive and defensive line.

“They’re young, but they’re strong, and they know their plays,” Hedges said. It’s not going to be the power game that you’re used to seeing. We don’t need them to drive the guys 10 yards down the field.”

The coaches

Seven coaches currently comprise the team’s staff. Randy Quinto, a three-time Southeast Conference Football Coach of the Year, was tabbed in December as the team’s head coach. Joining Quinto on the coaching staff are Isaak, Vince Yadao, Romney Tupou, Jeff Hedges, Todd Luck and Todd Hansen. Isaak, Yadao and Tupou are all former JDHS coaches while Quinto, Hedges, Luck and Hansen all arrive from TMHS.

The schedule

Aug. 11 at Palmer

Aug. 17 at West Anchorage

Aug. 25 East Anchorage, 2 p.m., (Adair-Kennedy)

Sept. 1 Lathrop, 7 p.m., (Thunder Mountain)

Sept. 8 at Wasilla

Sept. 14 Chugiak, 7 p.m., (Adair-Kennedy)

Sept. 21 Colony, 7 p.m. (Thunder Mountain)

Sept. 29 at Bartlett, 7 p.m.

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

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