Anchorage — One night six weeks ago, his football team 0-2 and his starting quarterback lost to a season-ending knee injury, West coach Tim Davis stood on the sideline at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium in Chugiak, crossed his arms, brushed his right foot back and forth across the turf, and pondered the Eagles' future.
Grim circumstances, he said, would either expose his team's character, or reveal it.
Thursday night, Davis stood on the track just off the playing surface at Anchorage Football Stadium, shook his head, curled his lips into a smile and marveled at the wonder of all that has passed since.
West High was the Cook Inlet Conference champion, courtesy of a 23-0 victory over defending state champion South generated by a backup quarterback who has developed into a revelation, a punishing running back, two dangerous receivers, a dogged defense and special teams that blocked a field-goal attempt.
"I didn't do it,'' Davis said. "These kids did it. This is awesome. I gotta go hug my mom.''
In a moment, he returned.
"We're gonna hang a banner tonight,'' he said. "It's gonna feel good for about 24 hours. These don't come around very often.''
Nor does the remarkable pair of victories the No. 2-ranked Eagles (6-2 overall, 6-1 CIC) authored in a span of just five days. Saturday, they throttled then-No. 1-ranked Service, 52-16, and then Thursday they dropped a donut on the new No. 1, South.
Next come the state quarterfinals, where West will be the top seed among the five playoff teams from the CIC. South (5-3, 5-2 CIC) previously qualified for the playoffs, as did Chugiak, Service and Dimond.
West conquered Thursday by virtue of an electric start, initiated by Marquise Rayford's fumble recovery just 77 seconds into the game. The Eagles turned that into Davis Ortland's 35-yard field goal.
After forcing South to punt after a three-and-out, West quarterback Tyrone Davis two plays later hit Leroy Elliott with a short pass that Elliott turned into a 41-yard touchdown by side-stepping a would-be tackler and racing to the end zone.
West's defense forced a second straight three-and-out. Again on second down, Davis struck. This time he lofted a bomb down the left side that caught Rayford in stride behind South's Eyob Imlach for a 73-yard strike and a 16-0 lead -- and not even seven minutes had run off the clock.
Davis is a former wide receiver who missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury that required surgery. In Week 2, when Sam Wedin went out with a knee injury, Tim Davis turned the offensive reins over to Tyrone Davis (no relation). That night in Chugiak, Tyrone Davis went 7 of 17 for 65 yards and threw three interceptions.
But he's improved exponentially since then, after West initially moved to a more running-based offense before Davis became more comfortable and practiced as a passer, and the Eagles began to throw more. Thursday, he connected on 12 of 26 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. He hooked up with Rayford on a 39-yard bomb in the third quarter that pushed the Eagles' advantage to 23-0.
"He's worked so hard,'' said Elliott, who caught a game-high five passes for 109 yards. "I give him props. Every day in practice he tells us receivers he's going to get better and he's going to get us the rock.''
Even with his three touchdown passes, Davis' signature play of the night arguably came midway through the third quarter when he faced third-and-15 from the 50. Under such pressure he was in the grasp of a tackler, Davis escaped, continued to his right and hit Elliott in the right flat. Elliott turned the play into a 32-yard gain.
Rayford turned his four receptions into 123 yards. He also intercepted a pass and gathered that fumble recovery.
And West running back Lui Faamasino pounded out 128 yards on his 23 carries. On defense, he forced a fumble and recovered it in fourth quarter. That was the third of the four turnovers West seized.
"Our offense is giving away at least three turnovers a game,'' said South coach John Lewis. "You don't win big games like this with three turnovers or more.''
West's ball-hawking defense also repeatedly harassed South quarterback Alec Valdez, who was sacked five times. And consider that Valdez is stunningly elusive when scrambling. A quarterback with plodding feet and modest instincts would have been sacked double-digit times under the heat Valdez faced.
South's offense was crippled too by the absence of its game-breaking running back, Justice Augafa, who left the game after one carry (nine yards) and spent part of the remaining first half icing his left arm. Augafa also is an instrumental linebacker for the Wolverines.
This night, though, was all about the Eagles, who have raised themselves from the depths of 0-2 to reel off six consecutive wins.
"We know we had a slow start, our quarterback went down, got a new quarterback,'' Elliott said. "Somehow, we pulled through. Our coaches believed in us, and I think that motivated us.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
West -- FG 35 Ortland, 9:02
West -- Elliott 41 pass from Davis to Elliott (Ortland kick), 7:10.
West -- Rayford 73 pass from Davis (kick failed), 5:26.
West -- Rayford 39 pass from Davis (Ortland kick), 9:13
RUSHING -- South: Maisey 10-72, Valdez 13-49, Hoover 6-29, Augafa 1-9, Alsworth 1-4, West 5-2, Stephens 1-1, Morman 1-(-2). West: Faamasino 23-128, Tuilimu 2-10, Faualo 2-1, Murchison 1-(-1), Team 2-(-49).
PASSING -- South: Valdez 10-20-2--77. West: Davis 12-26-0--263.
RECEIVING -- South: West 3-13, Devoe 2-19, Hoover 2-17, Micks 2-10, Scott 1-18. West: Elliott 5-109, Rayford 4-127, Cordero 1-11, Bell 1-9, Faamasino 1-7.
Week 8 prep football
West 23, South 0
7 p.m. -- Palmer at Wasilla
7 p.m. -- North Pole at Lathrop
7 p.m. -- Homer at Houston
8 p.m. -- Juneau at Thunder Mountain
Noon -- Barrow at Valdez
1 p.m. -- Colony at West Valley
1 p.m. -- Eielson at Voznesenka
1 p.m. -- Monroe at Nikiski
2 p.m. -- Bartlett at Chugiak
2 p.m. -- Dimond vs. Service, Anchorage Football Stadium
2 p.m. -- East at Eagle River
2 p.m. -- Soldotna at Kenai
2 p.m. -- Skyview at Kodiak
Follow us on Twitter
For the latest prep football and flag football scores and highlights