Spotlight on: Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears
Location: Juneau, Alaska
By Brett Manney
Typically when fall is in full swing, it signifies that hotly contested conference games are the norm in high school football.
But for Alaska high school football, the fall equates to temperatures in the 30s, snow on the ground and state playoffs.
This is a vast difference from the 48 continental states now, where a slight temperature change and abundant leaves on the ground are apparent and conference rivalry games are in full swing.
Meanwhile, Alaska starts their season the first week in August and ends this week because of the weather extremities.
On Oct. 18, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears (6-4 overall, FP.tv State PR: 71.81, Rank: 4) sought their second-straight 4A large school state championship against the Service Cougars (7-3 overall, FP.tv State PR: 80.97, Rank; 3).
As the early season favorites to repeat as class 4A state champions, the Crimson Bears have endured many hardships to get back to the state championship game.
Said head coach Bill Chalmers; “There was a moment in time when we questioned if we would make it this far.”
The Bears started their season with limited activity from their best player Alex Fagerstrom. The team’s tough luck continued with starting running back Silver Ma’ala, who moved away in the middle of the season and forced Fagerstrom to move to the running back position. Soon after, the season continued sliding downhill for Juneau-Douglas as the squad lost four-straight games from August 23 to September 9.
“The four-game losing streak shocked people, said Kevin Klott, preps writer for the Anchorage Daily News. “I can’t remember the last time they had one -- if they ever did.”
In that time span, the Bears lost to Blackfoot from Idaho (6-1 overall, FP.tv State PR: 72.92, Rank: 4), conference foes Palmer (5-4 overall, FP.tv State PR: 64.01, Rank: 7) and North Pole, (9-1 overall, FP.tv State PR: 90.44, Rank: 1) in addition to Oregon power Lake Oswego (6-0 overall, FP.tv State PR: 95.08, Rank: 1).
But the Bears never lost their competitive spirit thanks in part to assistant coaches Rich Sjoroos and Ed Briggs. Chalmers believes that both were very competitive and upbeat during the tough stretch and made a significant impact on the team. In addition, Chalmers praised the team’s captains, which includes junior LB Jack Perkins.
Said Chalmers, “They are exceptional young men.”
After losing to North Pole 25-0, the Bears then went on a four-game winning streak, which included a thriller in the state semifinal.
Led by Fagerstrom, AKA “Mr. Everything,” the Bears scratched back to defeat Juneau South 28-27. Fagerstrom, the two-time Railbelt Conference Player of the Year, had nine receptions for 180 yards after being unsuccessful from the tailback position early in the game. Two weeks ago in a quarterfinal game, Fagerstrom had five touchdowns, most definitely living up to his player of the year billing.
And certainly last weekend’s game against Service proved to be a frozen tundra battle. Led by highly touted QB Kevin Reilly of Service and a dominant performance by the team’s wide receivers, the Cougars captured the Large School Football State Championship, 22-14, and signaled the end of a hard-fought campaign by Juneau-Douglas.
But despite the tough ending for the Bears, the squad finished further than they ever expected in a season of the unexpected. And while the rest of the country prepares for their final playoff pushes this fall, they can all look up to the Bears and remember that no matter what happened in the past, the future is yours for the taking.
Check for Brett’s High School Spotlights each week right here at FootballPower.tv. If you know of a great school to feature for our next High School Spotlight, tell us why and send an e-mail to editor Adam C. Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org.