Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - How to win a conference title: The senior quarterback orchestrates the offense, the senior running back scores twice, the junior receiver scores three times, the junior back once, the senior linebacker intercepts a pass, and the senior Homecoming King intercepts two passes and kicks seven extra points - that was how the Juneau Huskies defeated the South Anchorage Wolverines 42-7 on Saturday at Adair Kennedy Field to win the Cook Inlet Conference title.
“I feel amazing,” Huskies senior Wallace Adams said. “I don’t feel like I played that good of a first half but our team really came back and helped us in the second quarter and we just played a great second half of a football game. I can’t feel any better than this.”
Adams was also chosen Homecoming King after the game.
“They gave me a little bit of a hard time,” Adams said of his teammates good-natured ribbing. While teammates Jarrell Williams and Jamal Johnson were also on the homecoming court, it was Adams who they paraded about the field. “It doesn’t look good wearing a crown when you are on the football team.”
The crown was worn by the Huskies themselves as they earned the title of champions and now sit on the Cook Inlet Conference throne.
The game began with South appearing to be capable of moving the ball against Juneau. The Wolverines took the opening kickoff to their own 35 yard line. They worked the ball over midfield and down to the Juneau 28 when Huskies junior linebacker Brandon Campbell sacked South senior quarterback Slade Schuster.
Huskies senior quarterback Noah Chambers began an eight-play drive that ended with a reverse hand-off to senior James Connally who sprinted 27-yards for the game’s first score. Adams added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff Huskies senior James Buker and junior Chris Harris tackled South’s returner at their own seven yard line. South would eventually have to punt and Juneau worked the ball into the second quarter of action and Chambers connected with Connally for a 42-yard pass and score and Adams added his second kick for a 14-0 lead.
South only ran four plays on their next possession, the final two involved gang sacks by seniors Kadin Messmer, Mathias Wiederspohn and junior Hunter Derr and on fourth-and-15 the Wolverines signal caller was bagged on his own one-yard line.
Juneau senior Gaby Soto took the next Huskies possession into the end zone with 9:06 remaining before the half and Adams connected again for the 21-0 lead.
On South’s next possession Juneau junior linebacker Lucas White intercepted a pass to give the Huskies the ball at the Wolverines’ 47.
Chambers built a 13-play drive around quarterback keepers and ground runs with Soto that was capped off by a 12-yard pass to Connally for another touchdown at the 3:01 mark and an Adams kicked the extra point for 28-0.
South put their only scoring drive together on the ensuing possession. Starting from their own 20 the Wolverines survived big tackles by Juneau freshman Jayden Johnson and his junior brother Jamal Johnson to earn a first-and-goal with three seconds remaining before the half. Schuster connected with junior Toby Miller for a short touchdown pass and sophomore Michael Wagner kicked the extra point to close within 21 points, 28-7.
“It feels great,” Juneau’s Jamal Johnson said after the game. “We played well I thought. I remember my freshman year we won the Chugach Conference and it feels great to win in the bigger conference with our team. When I was a freshman we would give up the second half… new team now, we just want to keep pushing each other, playing four quarters, playing the whole game.”
South’s brief momentum carried over through the half to the start of the third quarter. Chambers had the Huskies moving fast and hard down the field and passed into the end zone but was picked by the Wolverines sophomore Cole Bridges.
South managed just one play on the change of possession as Juneau’s Adams intercepted a pass at the Huskies 45 and brought it over the half to the South 48 yard line. Chambers would move the Huskies down to the five yard line where Soto carried in his second score of the game and Adams kicked his fifth extra point for a 35-7 lead.
The Juneau defense forced South to punt again on their next possession and with two minutes left in the third quarter the Huskies looked to put the game away. Chamber just missed junior Payton Grant by a finger tip in the end zone but then connected with Adams and Soto to take the ball into the fourth quarter.
“It feels great,” Soto said after the game. “Amazing actually. There is a lot to say. Pretty shocking honestly. It’s just a lot to take in right now.”
With a second-and-goal from the South five yard line Juneau junior Sam Sika benefited from a beautiful fake handoff to Johnson by getting the pigskin himself into the end zone with 11:56 remaining in the game. Adams hit his sixth extra point, giving him a perfect season mark of 30-30 between the up rights.
Adams would earn his second interception of the game on South’s next possession. The Huskies went four-and-out but then recovered a fumble and Chambers ran the clock out to end the game.
“You know what? It feels great but it makes me think of last year’s seniors,” Chambers said after the win. “The school board didn’t let them go out and play and … I am trying to feel happy right now but I am looking at my friends in the stands and all the seniors last year and it is bumming me out. But honestly, this is a great team! We are coming together! And let’s keep it going on the road to the state championship. We’re all a family here. Everyone who came out of this program, everyone who is going to come out of this program, you know, we did this for them. And we are going to continue to keep playing hard for each other because we are family.”
With the win the Juneau boasts a 6-1 record and will be the top seed in the playoffs. The Huskies will face the Dimond Lynx in the quarterfinals Saturday, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. on Adair Kennedy Field. Dimond has not won a conference game this season.
“It’s been a good season so far,” Juneau coach Rich Sjoroos said. “We put ourselves into a good spot going into the playoffs and did the things we needed to do. This is the first time since 2003 that we are the Cook Inlet Conference champs.”
Sjoroos gave credit to his coaching staff.
“It was a good football game today,” he said. “South had been on a roll lately so to be able to, especially defensively, hold them in check and force some turnovers and just get them into some hurried situations I thought was credit to our defensive coaches. Mitch Haldane and Evan Rothfled did a tremendous job of prepping the guys and the kids really had a great week of preparation and it showed on the field today.”
SCORE BY QUARTER
Juneau 7 - 21 - 7 - 7 = 42
South 0 - 7 - 0 - 0 = 7
HOW THEY SCORED
6:26 - Huskies - Connally 27-yard run. Adams PAT 7-0.
10:30 - Huskies - Chambers 42-yard pass to Connally. Adams PAT. 14-0.
9:06 - Huskies - Soto 1-yard run. Adams PAT. 21-0.
3:01 - Huskies - Chambers 12-yard pass to Connally. Adams PAT. 28-0.
:03.5 - Wolverines - Schuster 5-yard pass to Miller. Wagner PAT. 7-28.
5:00 - Huskies - Soto 5-yard run. Adams PAT. 35-7.
11:56 - Huskies - Sika 5-yard run. Adams PAT. 42-7.
HUSKIES STATS VS SOUTH
Passing: Noah Chambers was 5-10 for 85 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.
Rushing: Gaby Soto rushed 23 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Jamal Johnson rushed 10 times for 98 yards. James Connally rushed two times for 39 yards and one touchdown. Kadin Messmer rushed four times for 28 yards. Sam Sika rushed three times for 12 yards and one touchdown. Chris Harris rushed one time for seven yards. Jarrell Williams rushed one time for three yards. Payton Grant rushed two times and Noah Chambers four times, both for minus yards.
Receiving: James Connally caught two passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Wallace Adams caught one pass for 15 yards. Lucas White caught one pass for 11 yards. Payton Grant caught one pass for five yards.
Interceptions: Juneau - Wallace Adams two, Lucas White one. South - Cole Bridges one.
“I would say that everything we have done on the field has just been everything and more than we could ask of these guys,” Sjoroos said. “Like I said though, it’s just a complete reboot at this point and we have got to find a way to get past Dimond and that is what we are going to set our sights on now.”