Juneau United was locked in for the opening drive of their senior night duel with Colony on Friday at Thunder Mountain High School.
When sophomore Cooper Kriegmont couldn’t find senior Max Wheat along the right sideline to extend a 47-yard drive, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But then Colony got the ball and wouldn’t stop scoring. The Knights amassed over 200 yards of offense in the first half and scored five touchdowns on five drives, eventually winning 49-0. Senior Julian McPhail scored three touchdowns three different ways: rushing, receiving and on special teams. McPhail caught the second-half kickoff and sprinted 81 yards to the end zone.
It was the largest margin of defeat Juneau United has suffered this season. But Colony, who improved to 6-1, was also arguably the fastest and most fundamentally-sound team Juneau has faced all season.
“They were super fast and they knew what plays to call,” senior Caleb Traxler said. “They’d watch us and watch what we were doing and watch our tendencies and just take advantage of them.”
McPhail said the team has gotten better each week of the season.
“Executing on offense is what we’ve been trying to do all year,” McPhail said. “Had a few hiccups at the beginning of the year, cleaned some things out and we’ve been rolling ever since.”
Kriegmont, who threw two interceptions, continued to look for Wheat on later drives, including one that put Juneau in its best position for points. Wheat caught two passes on a 64-yard drive near the end of the first half. After attempting two touchdown passes on Colony’s 21-yard line, Juneau sent Jake Babcock out on the field for a 37-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the half. The kick missed the mark, and the score stood at 35-0 at the break.
Wheat and Babcock were two of the 12 players honored before the game for senior night. Coach Randy Quinto thought of these players when he delivered his halftime talk. Quinto wanted his seniors to enjoy their final 24 minutes of Senior Night.
So he moved them around to different positions.
“Keep spirits up and let those guys have a little bit of fun,” Quinto said. “And they did.”
Colony would score just one other touchdown after McPhail’s touchdown 14 seconds into the second half, increasing the margin to 42-0.
“We only allowed one kick return and one actual touchdown in the second half,” senior Tristan Bryant said. “That’s actually pretty good because they popped 35 and they only scored 14 in the second half.”
But Colony did a good job keeping Juneau out of the end zone too. Hansel Hinckle, who caught nine passes for 82 yards, made the final two tackles of the game. He walked off the field with his head held high, and embraced his coach waiting on the sideline.
The senior wideout was one of five seniors Quinto coached for all four seasons: three as Thunder Mountain Falcons, one as members of Juneau United. The careers of Hinckle, Traxler, Alvin Huber, William Skinna and Puna Toutaiolepo coincided with the rise of the Thunder Mountain program. The Falcons went 16-10 over the last three seasons, making it to the playoffs each year.
Toutaiolepo said the Falcons’ 28-26 playoff loss to Palmer two years ago is still fresh in his mind. The Falcons scored 19 points in the second half and nearly came back to win the game. Traxler calls to mind a different game when asked about memorable games of his career: last season’s 35-12 road win over North Pole.
“It was the best feeling ever to walk away with the win knowing that they were better than us but we were still able to pull it together because of how hard we worked,” Traxler said.
JDHS lineman Tristan Bryant and wide receiver Cristian Batac also played all four years of high school football. After playing against Hinckle and co. for the past three seasons, Batac was happy when he heard the news that TMHS and JDHS would join ranks. It meant playing with teammates from his Juneau Youth Football League days.
“I think this is awesome. … I don’t see it as two teams, I see it as one team, because we’ve been playing our whole lives together,” Batac said.
They’ll have one more game together. Juneau United travels to Anchorage to play Bartlett, the defending state champions and only team Colony has lost to this season.
Juneau United Senior Class
Richard Lehner (TMHS)
Jake Babcock (TMHS)
Alvin Huber (TMHS)
William Skinna (TMHS)
Mackenzie Reeves (TMHS)
Vaipuna Toutaiolepo (TMHS)
Gaven Smith (TMHS)
Max Wheat (JDHS)
Tristan Bryant (JDHS)
Thomas Willhoite (TMHS)
Caleb Traxler (TMHS)
Cristian Batac (JDHS)
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.