Crimson Bears: Runners up and great sportsmen

JDHS Football in Anchorage

(Photo by Debbie Vance)

A new trophy will be placed in the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears trophy case on Monday morning.

The shiny silver football is symbolic of Saturday’s well-fought medium-schools championship game that Juneau dominated much of the time.  Juneau also brings home the sportsmanship award.  The game was played at Anchorage Football Stadium.

As Rosemarie Alexander reports, the final score of Juneau 49, Soldotna 56 is the outcome of a game that could have been won by either team.


The game was barely underway and junior running back Eric Nordgren was already in the end zone. Then a pink flag fell to the field and Juneau’s first touchdown was called back on a penalty.

Crimson Bears Head Coach Rich Sjoross said he’d never seen a game with so many momentum swings.

“They’re down, we’re up; we’re down, they ’re up.”

JDHS Football in Anchorage

(Photo by Debbie Vance)

I reached Sjoross on his cellphone just after the awards ceremony.

That play, he said, also set the emotional tone for the game.

“We scouted them, came up with a play, hit an 80-yard touchdown and then it comes back on a penalty.  So we go from elation and they go from disappointment and then the penalty flag comes late and then we’re disappointed and they’re elated,” Sjoross said.

A short time later, the Soldotna Stars scored then Juneau took over. The Stars struggled to contain Bears’ running back Demtrius Campos, who is small, light and negotiates traffic well.  Before the end of the second quarter, Campos, Nordgren and junior wide receiver Adam Empson scored four Juneau touchdowns; Soldotna had three.

The game was seen statewide on GCI cable channel one.  The Alaska School Activities Association has signed a seven-year agreement with the company to broadcast all state playoff games.

This was an exciting one for television.

“It’s one of those games that ages all the coaches, but it’s great for TV,” Sjoross said.

Tied game

“Snap, the kick is up and it is good and Soldotna has come from two touchdowns down to tie this one up 42 to 42,” a play-by-play announcer said.  

Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network’s Bob Barger was on the sidelines.

“Hey, if you have a seatbelt on the recliner at home, ladies and gentlemen, bucket it in because it’s going to be turbulent here in the fourth quarter, I assure you that.”

JDHS Football in Anchorage

(Photo by Debbie Vance)

The game was tied twice in the second half.  In the fourth quarter the Stars picked off a Crimson Bears’ pass then scored, breaking a 49 to 49 tie; it was the 15th touchdown of the game.  The score was 56 to 49, with seven minutes remaining.

The game ended with Soldotna in possession inside the Juneau five-yard line, where the Stars ran out the clock.

After the game, Soldotna quarterback Colton Young told Barger that Juneau was the toughest team the Stars have played all year.

Here’s how Barger described the Crimson Bears:

“Sure they came out on the short end, but they controlled a good part of this game and to me, they’re a champion, too, they’re a runner up. They’re not a loser, they are a runner up.”  

Juneau had 405 yards total offense; Soldotna, 486.  Juneau had 4 penalties for 45 yards, with two touchdowns nullified.   Soldotna had one penalty for five yards. Every extra point Juneau’s Manasse Maake kicked was good. Same for Soldotna’s kicker. The Stars failed on one two-point conversion.

Sportsmanship Award

The Crimson Bears were number one in sportsmanship for medium schools, an award given by the Alaska Schools Activities Association.  According to Coach Sjoross, the 2013 Crimson Bears are the first JDHS football team in 25 years to get the sportsmanship award.

“You know in today’s society, that’s a big deal.  With many issues with coaches and players, and fans with referees, and all that kind of stuff, you know you just read stories all throughout the nation,” Sjoross said.  “To get a sportsmanship award from a group of people that really don’t know the kids other than to evaluate them on the field, that’s a pretty special thing.”

In other Alaska high school football news, Nikiski won the small schools championship game against Monroe, on a score of 36 to 28. West Anchorage beat Service, 28 to 16, to claim the large schools trophy.

For those who have GCI cable, all three championship games can be seen on demand.

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