A dormant high school football rivalry will be renewed this Saturday night.
When the Juneau Huskies (5-3, 3-1 Chugach) take on South Anchorage at 7 p.m. at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field in the state football quarterfinals, it will mark the first playoff matchup between the squads in 11 years. Juneau-Douglas High School and South met three straight years in the postseason from 2006-2008.
Juneau rallied in the fourth quarter to win 28-27 in the 2008 state semifinals to spoil South’s previously-undefeated season, one of the most memorable games of Huskies coach Rich Sjoroos’ career.
“We just made a great comeback and with less than 30 seconds to go in the game we went by up one point and we were able to hold on and win that game,” Sjoroos said. “It was a pretty remarkable game. Looking back on it, I think it was the 100th win in school history.”
Juneau is looking to advance to the Division I, or large school, state semifinals for the first time since 2011. South (4-4, 1-3 Cook Inlet) hasn’t reached the semifinals in five years, but like Juneau, turned it around this season with new roster additions. With less than a dozen seniors, the Wolverines elevated practically their entire junior varsity team from last year.
“Our team is young and they’ve had a lot of success in their high school career,” South coach Walter Harmon said. “As freshmen, they had one loss, as sophomores, they had no losses, so their expectation of winning and being successful is very high and pretty proper because it’s really all they know.”
The Huskies’ high expectations were on display last weekend.
Juneau’s sturdy offensive line and quarterback Cooper Kriegmont worked in tandem against visiting Bartlett, paving the way to a 67-24 win and Chugach Conference championship. Kriegmont scored five rushing touchdowns in the win, bringing up his season total to 10, tied for most on the team with Gaby Soto.
The Huskies benefited from repeated Bartlett turnovers on the rainy and cold evening and could expect to play in the same conditions Saturday night.
“It’s been the same here so we’re getting a chance to practice in it,” Harmon said of the rain. “It won’t be anything that we haven’t been practicing in all week long.”
South finished fourth in the Cook Inlet Conference behind East Anchorage, West Anchorage and Service. The Wolverines lost to all three of those teams over the final month of the regular season.
Though they finished with a losing record, South was only blown out by one team, Soldotna, in Week 3. The Wolverines downed Bartlett 37-0 and Colony 38-7 to start the season.
“The shining star this year for us has been our defense,” Harmon said. “Our defense didn’t allow their first points until SoHi (Soldotna) and they follow that game up with another shutout. Our defense has really kept us in a lot of games.”
“When it’s one-day, winner-take-all, anything can happen,” Sjoroos said.
Huskies earn all-conference nods
Seven Huskies were voted first-team All-Chugach Conference at a coaches meeting last weekend. The first-team honorees included sophomore Soto (running back), junior Ali Beya (running back), sophomore Noah Chambers (quarterback), junior Marcos Yadao (offensive line), junior Kriegmont (linebacker), sophomore Wallace Adams (defensive back) and senior Cole Jensen (defensive end).
An additional 12 Juneau players were voted second-team or honorable mention: junior Ethan Jaenicke (offensive line), junior Jake Ferster (offensive line), junior Dawson Hickok (tight end), freshman Sam Sika (defensive tackle), sophomore Mathias Wiederspohn (defensive tackle), junior Danny Isaak (wide receiver), freshman Jamal Johnson (defensive back), sophomore Landon Guthrie (offensive line), junior Garrett Bryant (wide receiver), sophomore Sione Veikoso (offensive line), sophomore James Connally (defensive back) and junior Cody Morehouse (linebacker).
Winningest Juneau prep football coaches (Top-5)
1. Rich Sjoroos, 38-18 (2009-2013; 2019)
2. Reilly Richey, 37-24 (1998-2004)
3. Bill Chalmers, 33-10 (2005-2008)
4. Dave Haynie, 29-23 (1990-1997)
5. Bill Byouer, 19-15 (2009-2012)
2019 ASAA First National Bowl Football State Championships
Friday, Oct. 10
Division I — Service (No. 3 Cook Inlet) at Chugiak (No. 2 Chugach), 7 p.m.; Bartlett (No. 3 Chugach) at West Anchorage (No. 2 Cook Inlet), 7 p.m.
Division II — West Valley (No. 2 Railbelt) at Soldotna (No. 1 Northern Lights), 5 p.m.
Division III — Ben Eielson (No. 2 Aurora) at Houston (No. 1 Peninsula), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 11
Division I — Colony (No. 4 Chugach) at East Anchorage (No. 1 Cook Inlet), 2 p.m.; South Anchorage (No. 4 Cook Inlet) at Juneau (No. 1 Chugach), 7 p.m.
Division II — Eagle River (No. 2 Northern Lights) at Lathrop (No. 1 Railbelt), 1 p.m.
Division III — Nikiski (No. 2 Peninsula) at Barrow (No. 1 Peninsula), 1 p.m.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.