All-state quarterback Phillip Fenumiai was missing in action Saturday night, but the Juneau Crimson Bears found a way to win without him, holding on for a 7-6 victory over East in a dramatic state quarterfinal victory in Juneau.
East had decent field position for its final two drives, but the offense sputtered on both possessions.
Thunderbirds quarterback Jesse Vanilau, facing 4th and 9, threw an interception with less than eight minutes to go. Juneau failed to score on its ensuing possession but the Crimson Bears succeeded in milking the clock. By the time they turned the ball over on downs, just 3 minutes, 35 seconds remained.
East (4-5) went nowhere fast on its final drive, which consisted of a delay of game penalty against the Thunderbirds and four pass plays. Three of Vanilau's passes were incomplete, and the fourth, to Austin Gardner, was for short yardage.
The drive ended with an incompletion and Juneau took over with 3:06. The Crimson Bears got one first down, which was enough offense to keep them on the field until the end.
The victory by the Crimson Bears keeps next weekend's semifinals from being an all-Anchorage affair. Junaeu (8-1) was the lone Railbelt Conference to score a victory Saturday over a Cook Inlet Conference team and will take on top-ranked and undefeated Service next. CIC teams South and West will meet in the other semifinal.
The game's only touchdowns came in the first half.
Vanilau connected with Jarred Laws for an 11-yard touchdown pass, but the point-after kick failed. Lah Fafita scored for the Crimson Bears, who nailed the PAT kick for what proved to be the winning margin.
Fenumiai, who has a leg injury, dressed for the game but didn't see any action. Playing in his place was Brady Mallinger, a freshman who kept his cool with the game on the line.