Weekend Preview: Cross country regionals, Southeast football showdowns

The battle for the Southeast Conference comes down to the last two games this year, with both Juneau teams hoping to separate themselves from North Pole and Ketchikan with road wins this weekend.

Both the Falcons and Crimson Bears are 1-0 in Conference play so far; wins for both teams this weekend would qualify each team for the state semifinals, pitting both Juneau teams against Northern Lights Conference opponents in the Oct. 8 medium school semifinals.

In the event Juneau-Douglas defeats North Pole and Thunder Mountain beats Ketchikan this weekend, a Sept. 30 crosstown showdown between the Crimson Bears and the Falcons would decide playoff seeding for the Southeast Conference. Postseason seeding is based on conference records.

Juneau-Douglas (3-3 OA; 1-0 C), North Pole (1-5 OA; 0-1 C)

Despite a tough season with injuries to key players, the Crimson Bears find themselves tied with Thunder Mountain in Conference standings on their way to North Pole for a Saturday game against the Patriots.

Starting quarterback Bubba Stults suffered a leg injury in a Sept. 10 game against Hoopa Valley High School, and will once again be absent from the lineup. The ailing Crimson Bears also lost starting center John Elisoff, who went down last weekend against Ketchikan. He’s been cleared to play by doctors this weekend but may be absent from the defensive team.

To add to the Crimson Bears’ injury woes, starting middle linebacker and right guard Nathan Van Sickle won’t suit up against North Pole. Doctors sight migraines that could be concussion symptoms for the junior. Lance Galletes-Fiagatusa will move from outside to middle linebacker in Van Sickle’s absence.

“If those guys could have a comeback that would be great, but these guys’ health will be more important. We’ll put together the best team and see what happens,” coach John Hamrick said.

Under center, Juneau-Douglas will depend on the talents of backup quarterback Liam Van Sickle, a speedy 5-foot-7 junior who’s shown a knack for moving around in the pocket and finding receivers on broken plays in his two games at quarterback this season.

The Crimson Bears will have to stop North Pole senior Lafi’Itione “Lafi” Skipps, possibly the Conference’s best back, who put up an unreal 172 yards on 26 carries in their Sept. 16 loss to Thunder Mountain.

“I expect it to be hard for us since we’ve lost some key players but we have had some guys step up,” junior running back Lance Galletes-Fiagatusa said. “We gotta push harder, faster, smarter and stronger for these next games and play with more heart. North Pole is a good team but any team can be stopped.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Coverage of the game can be found at the Empire online and in Tuesday’s print edition.

Thunder Mountain (3-3 OA; 1-0 C), Ketchikan (2-4 OA; 0-1 C)

The Falcons make the trip to Ketchikan this weekend for a Friday rematch against the Kings. Thunder Mountain won their first game — a Sept. 2 non-conference dual — to a second-quarter Kings forfeit.

Thunder Mountain has galvanized as a team since the tragic loss of senior Ryan Mayhew last Saturday. Mayhew will be honored before the Ketchikan game.

The Falcons are coming off their first conference win last weekend against North Pole, which was a huge boost to Thunder Mountain’s offense, which missed starting quarterback Cale Jenkins last week to concussion protocols.

Cross country regionals

Both of Juneau’s prep cross country teams head to Sitka for Saturday’s 4A regional meet. Region V’s three 4A teams, JDHS, TMHS and Ketchikan, will compete Saturday afternoon for the rights to run at the state championship meet Oct. 1 at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.

The JDHS boys team has won regions every year since 1990 and will look to continue their dominance behind leading their runner Arne Ellefson-Carnes, a sophomore. JDHS freshman Sadie Tuckwood, who’s been dominating races so far this year, will look to complete a Region V three-peat with a Crimson Bears girls win.

Thunder Mountain has crept up on their crosstown rivals in boys team scores thus far, and with the field cleared to just three teams at Saturday’s meet, has a puncher’s chance to pull off an upset. Thunder Mountain’s girls team will look to fend off Ketchikan but will need a herculean effort to unseat JDHS, who have their sights set on a state title.

The Empire will travel to Sitka to provide coverage, which will appear online Saturday evening and will publish in print in the Monday edition.

Volleyball

Thunder Mountain travels to Tacoma for games this weekend while JDHS heads to West High School in Anchorage for the annual Spiketacular tournament. The Crimson Bears spikers compete in pool play Friday and bracket play Saturday.

• Contact Sports and Outdoors reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com.

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