A high school football team from the Southern California desert left the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears scoreless on Saturday. The Murietta Valley Nighthawks beat the Crimson Bears by 59 points in a game played on the Bear’s home turf.
Saturday’s downpour stopped just about the time 14 senior players and their families took the field for the annual senior night presentation.
It was the seniors’ last regular season home game and possibly their high school football career.
It was also a bye week, and the Bears had no conference game scheduled. In recent years, the Juneau team has filled bye weeks with games against teams from the Lower 48.
It didn’t take long for the Nighthawks to score two points on a safety. By the end of the first quarter, they had 17 points; 31 at the half. The Nighthawks were 45 points ahead at the end of the third quarter, when the Mercy Rule kicked in and the clock continued to run. In the fourth, they scored even more touchdowns to end the game 59 to 0.
Going into the game, both teams thought it would be more competitive.
“Watching on film, I thought it’d be a much closer game, I really truly did,” said Greg Ireland, Murrieta Valley head coach.
“But I think when you lose your leader, you lose your quarterback, it’s very difficult, you know, very difficult. And that’s when the game changed,” he said.
The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears are on their third quarterback of the season. Senior Phillip Fenumiai, a strong team leader, was injured in the first game this fall, and recently had knee surgery. Sophomore Dorian Isaak has been starting as quarterback, but was injured early in Saturday night’s game when he was sacked in the end zone. Then senior fullback Trevor Pfaff switched to quarterback.
Crimson Bears head coach Rich Sjoross arranged the game with Murrieta Valley two years ago.
“You don’t have a crystal ball that tells you you’re going to lose Philip, or you’re not going to have some key pieces,” Sjoross said. “There’s no way to forecast that kind of stuff. Everybody shows up and plays the games and does the best they can.”
During the game, fullback/linebacker George Sua suffered injury and is likely out for the rest of the season. Just before half time, running back Demetrius Campos went out with a pulled hamstring. Even so, he said getting tromped by the Nighthawks “was fun, because they’re a good team and we need the motivation to do good against Palmer next week.”
Coach Sjoross said the bye week games against Lower 48 teams prepare the Bears for the end of their Railbelt Conference season.
“They get to find out who some of their leaders are,” he said, “and that’s probably the biggest thing going down the stretch — we got to know who the guys are that we can lean on when times get tough, because we’re going to go into Palmer and West Valley and they’re two of the top teams in the state. And if we have any hopes of making the playoffs we kind of got to know where we’re at physically, and these kinds of games show you. They show you a lot about your character.”
Nearly 50 Varsity Nighthawks suited up for the game, more than the number of Crimson Bears Varsity and Junior Varsity players combined.
Travel is the most expensive part of playing sports in Juneau and the high school football team has long picked up some of the cost of visiting teams’ airfare. In this case, the Crimson Bears gave Murietta Valley $20,000 toward the $80,000 trip.
Murrieta Valley brought 84 students, including managers; 11 coaches and 32 parents. Coach Ireland said for many of the boys coming to Juneau was not just their first major trip, it was their first airplane ride.
“Usually it’s San Diego, maybe half hour away or something. But nothing like this. Never done this,” he said.
After the game, senior quarterback Andrew Blake said the Nighthawks were savoring more than a huge win. They’ll remember the Mendenhall Glacier, Nugget Falls, and hanging out as a team.
“We came together so much as a team, it was a great experience,” he said. “We’ll remember that for the rest of our lives, you know.”
Then Blake pointed toward the Crimson Bears in a huddle at the end of the field.
“I just gotta thank them for inviting us up here and paying for 35 of our tickets. That’s amazing.”
JV Nighthawks beat Crimson Bears
The Junior Varsity Nighthawks trounced the Crimson Bears JV on Friday night, on a score of 34 to 6. On Saturday, they were the varsity cheering section as well as chattering about their four-day Alaska adventure.
“The iceberg, it’s the beautifulest thing I’ve ever seen. The bluest, the coldest thing ever,” said
JV outside linebacker Jake Gomez. He’s never seen so much green, so many tall trees, or rain in his life.
“I love the rain, it’s so beautiful here. It’s the first time that I’ve see it rain all day, every day for almost a week. It’s awesome,” he said.
The desert city of Murrieta Valley is about 65 miles north and east of San Diego. In the 2010 census, it had a population of 103,466 people, having grown nearly 134 percent since the year 2000. Murrieta Valley has three high schools.
And the Nighthawk? Well, it’s a medium-sized bird that pursues flying insects at dusk and dawn. It does not migrate to Alaska.
Weekend Thunder Mountain football
The Thunder Mountain Falcons beat the Ketchikan Kings 43 to 14, in a game played in Ketchikan over the weekend. The Falcons play in the Southeast Conference, against Sitka and Ketchikan.
The Falcon’s bye week is coming up at the end of the month, when they will host Argonaut High School from Jackson, Calif., a town about 50 miles east of Sacramento.