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Prep Football: Battle between Juneau Front-7 and Colony O-line could be decisive matchup in Friday’s title game

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Cover Story, Football

Juneau’s defense lines up against Colony in Week 4. Photo by Bruce Eggleston/MatSu Sports

Juneau’s defense is top notch from top to bottom, especially up front. The linemen are physical and the linebackers are fast, often times stopping a rushing attack in its tracks.

The Huskies feature a ferocious front seven that can chew up an offense and spit it out.

That’s been the case all season, which is a big reason why Juneau is 10-0 and playing for a state championship Friday night against the 8-2 Colony Knights in the ASAA First National Bowl.

The No. 1-ranked team with the No.1-ranked defense in Alaska’s Division I classification, Juneau allows just 12.7 points per game and has held three opponents to six points or fewer.

Big games are won in the trenches and the Huskies have made a habit of controlling the line of scrimmage behind their fabulous 4-3 front:

JUNEAU D-LINE STARTERS
Fearsome Front Seven

DL: Brandon Campbell 6-1, 214
DL: Sam Sika 6-0, 264
DL: Hunter Derr 5-10, 230
DL: MJ Tupou 6-1, 196
LB: Jamal Johnson 5-8, 183
LB: Lucas White 6-0, 199
LB: Thomas Baxter 6-2, 197

“Our front seven have been a great unit all season,” said Juneau head coach Rich Sjoroos. “They communicate well and do a great job of bracketing and swarming to the football.”

Back in Week 4, Juneau beat Colony 42-13 in the Valley behind a strong defensive effort as the Huskies held Colony to a season-low 222 yards of offense and forced five punts. White had two sacks, Tupou forced a fumble and Johnson blocked a PAT.

“Our defense has been lights out pretty much all season,” said Juneau defensive back Jarrell Williams.

The secret to scoring on Juneau’s defense is to do it early, especially in the playoffs. The Huskies gave up touchdowns in the opening minute of play against South on a kickoff return in the quarterfinals and East on a 67-yard TD pass in the semifinals. Outside of those two plays, the Huskies have allowed only 14 points across eight quarters.

Juneau’s Sage Richards, Sam Sika and Hunter Derr eye the snap. Photo by Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire

Colony no doubt is seeking redemption in the big game after getting shoved around by Juneau in the regular-season meeting Sept. 2.

“We lost pretty bad to them in the regular season,” Colony quarterback Jack Nash said. “We just gotta keep cool the whole game. We got to keep the energy and positively all the way through.”

The Knights certainly have the offensive weapons to hurt Juneau, most notably in Nash, who leads the state with 2,358 total yards and 35 total TDs but was limited to 96 yards and one score against the Huskies. The Knights also feature top wide receiver Jayden Underwood, who has 30 receptions for 418 yards and 10 TDs, and flanker Trevor Jamison, who has posted 20-274-4 totals.

Sjoroos isn’t counting on the Knights’ stubbing their toe when the teams meet again.

“Jack Nash is a special player. He presents a unique set of challenges with the skill set he possesses,” the Juneau coach said. “It will take a group effort to have success on Friday night.”

Colony’s Trevor Haas, Ben Holladay and Nolan Thaler set up against Dimond in Week 3. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Colony head coach Robbie Nash believes his team will rise to the occasion and looks to the offensive line to get the Knights revved up for long drives.

“We call our linemen our ‘Warhorses,’” he said. “They mean everything to us. We all know they are always the unsung heroes, but to us they are the absolute core of our team.

“Without our line winning the battle we can never win the war.”

COLONY O-LINE STARTERS
The Warhorses

C: Nolan Thaler 6-0, 300
RG: Ben Holladay 5-9, 210
RT: Trevor Hass 6-1, 230
LG: Jackson Goss 6-0, 265
RT: Hunter Larsen 6-0, 225
TE: Cole Hamilton 6-3, 210

For these guys, protecting Nash is personal.

“I grew up with all of them. Every single one of them is like my best friend,” Nash said. “Even outside of football we are the closest of friends. We hang out and do a bunch of stuff together. I know they aren’t the biggest linemen but they are fast and a lot of stronger than people think. I know they’ve got my back.”

Colony offensive line coach Jason Ross and assistant Jim Ehmann have molded the Knights into a lean machine that powers a run-pass option offense that works out of the shotgun and averages 33.4 points and 300 yards a game.

“We switched back to zone blocking last year and Coach Ross has had two seasons to get them going,” Colony bench boss Robbie Nash said. “We are still a young team and the Warhorses have really begun to pick it up.”


 

PAST CHAMPIONS

ASAA First National Bowl
Large School Division I

2021 East 30, Juneau 17
2020 No game
2019 South 27, Service 13
2018 East 35, West 6
2017 Bartlett 40, West 33
2016 East 13, West 7
2015 West 41, Chugiak 0
2014 South 20, West 6
2013 West 28, Service 16
2012 South 28, Service 19
2011 Service 37, South 23
2010 West 6, Service 0
2009 Bartlett 21, Chugiak 3
2008 Service 22, Juneau 14
2007 Juneau 23, Palmer 13
2006 South 26, Colony 16
2005 Juneau 49, Palmer 29
2004 North Pole 44, West 13
2003 East 33, Juneau 15
2002 Bartlett 34, Chugiak 13
2001 Dimond 16, Bartlett 0
2000 Dimond 28, Colony 21
1999 Service 49, Wasilla 0
1998 Service 48, Dimond 20
1997 Service 47, Chugiak 14
1996 Chugiak 24, Palmer 19
1995 Palmer 12, Chugiak 7
1994 Service 16, Chugiak 14
1993 Dimond 20, Eielson 19
1992 Eielson 28, Soldotna 9
1991 Bartlett 27, Eielson 0
1990East 36, Soldotna 7
1989 Bartlett 14, West Valley 7
1988 Chugiak 20, Soldotna 18
1987 East 41, North Pole 6
1986 East 29, Palmer 18
1985 East 26, Lathrop 0
1984 Chugiak 8, Lathrop 5
1983 Dimond 21, Soldotna 0
*Inaugural ASAA tournament

TITLE GAME RECORDS

 
PASSING
Touchdowns

3 – Derek Laws, East 2003
3 – Sean Duffy, West 2015
Yards
300 – Sean Duffy, West 2015
Longest TD
69 – Barrett Allen to John Rajek, Chugiak 1994
 
RUSHING
Touchdowns

4 – Mike Harms, East 1987
4 – Brandon Drumm, Service 1997
4 – Dominique Maddox, Service 1998
Yards
351 – Tres Saldivar, Juneau 2005
Longest TD
91 – Brandon Drumm, Service 1997
 
RECEIVING
Touchdowns

3 – Casey Flair, East 2003
Yards
185 – Shanai Leon, West 2015
Receptions
11 – Shanai Leon, West 2015
Longest TD
69 – John Rajek from Barrett Allen, Chugiak 1994
 
DEFENSE
Interceptions

4 – Mikah Boudreaux, Soldotna 1992
4 – Cory Wardrope, Chugiak 2002
SPECIAL TEAMS
Longest Interception Return TD

95 – Sylvester Johnson, Chugiak 1995
Longest Punt Return TD
65 – Jamal Hale, Bartlett 2009
Longest Fumble Return TD
30 – Caadyn Stephen, West 2017
Longest Kickoff Return TD
88 – Gabe Steele, South 2011
Longest Field Goal
38 – George Percak-Dennett, Colony 2006

Story made possible by:

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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