One of Alaska’s top-ranked high school football teams was a gracious host for the Pemberton Grizzlies off the field. Once on the field, it was a different story.
The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears amassed an insurmountable first-half lead to hand the Grizzlies their first loss of the season on Saturday (Sept. 21) at Adair Kennedy Field in downtown Juneau.
The Grizzlies (2-1) fell victim to a bunch of big plays early on and were faced with a 72-0 deficit at halftime, but played a scoreless second half with the Bears. Pemberton head coach John Burleson credited his players for refusing to throw in the towel against a deep Juneau-Douglas squad.
“They were an awfully good ball club,” said Burleson. The Crimson Bears are currently ranked No. 3 in the state. “We knew playing with a short bench that we would have to be perfect, anyways. But to their credit, our guys fought back.”
A few two-way starters were unable to make the trip and another was held out to injury on a game-time decision, so the Grizzlies had some gaps to fill in the lineup Saturday. Burleson said the roster shakeup made it tough for Pemberton to give quarterback Eldon Finck much protection in the loss.
The Crimson Bears scored two kick return touchdowns and another off an interception, and scored twice more from their own side of midfield.
“We just gave up too many big plays,” said Burleson. “The kids thoroughly enjoyed playing under the lights of the stadium there … we just had to hear the cannon get fired too many times. But it was a great experience.”
Lane Gobert had a game-high nine tackles for Pemberton and carried the ball nine times on offence. Mackenzie Graves recorded five stops on defence. Burleson said linebacker Jeremy Lacsamana was “amazing” in Saturday’s game and added that kicker Aaron Ryan had his most impressive game to date on punts and kickoffs.
“When you have games like this, it defines the character of your team,” said Burleson. “These guys understand that their resolve is determined by (how they respond) to this adversity, and I actually feel sorry for the next team we play. I really believe we’ll come out and play a good game, next game.”
Burleson said Juneau-Douglas was an extremely welcoming host, looking after transportation and most meals for the Grizzlies during their stay. The team also got a chance to take in some of the town, touring the State Capitol and Mendenhall Glacier.
“I’ve travelled and played a lot of football over the years and I’ve never met a community that embraced us like the booster club in Juneau did,” said Burleson. “They were so giving and so appreciative of us actually making this trip. It’s hard for them to get teams to come in to Juneau because they’re very isolated.”
The Grizzlies are working out plans to play at a tournament in Mexico in December, which will attract teams from the host nation and the United States. The team plans to announce a major fundraising event for sometime in October to help cover costs of the trip.
Saints go to 3-0
The Whistler Saints remain undefeated in North Shore Football League play after they improved to 3-0 with a 20-12 triumph over the West Vancouver 49ers on Sunday (Sept. 22).
Benyon McKeen scored one touchdown on a 50-yard run and another on a kick return to lead the flag football squad to the win. Liam Forsyth had the other Whistler touchdown and Logan Anderson kicked a two-point convert to round out the scoring. The Saints return to action in North Vancouver on Sunday (Sept. 29) against the Raiders.