On the first snap from scrimmage Saturday afternoon, Kenai’s strategy became clear: Bleed the clock and continually feed running back Chase Daniels.
From Juneau’s first touch of the football, its counter-strategy was evident: Strike quickly and lethally.
Instant offense defeated the deliberate variety in the semifinals of the state high school medium-school semifinal: Juneau 42, Kenai 15.
Juneau’s Demetrius Campos rushed 20 times for 208 yards and two touchdowns at Dimond’s windswept Alumni Field, returned the kickoff 85 yards to open the second half for a touchdown and piled up 302 all-purpose yards.
He pierced the Kardinals from the outset, blazing 80 yards on a quarterback keeper on Juneau’s first play from scrimmage. He later delivered a 46-yard touchdown run.
Juneau also scored off a fake punt on Adam Empson’s 44-yard pass to Eric Nordgren, received a 23-yard touchdown run from Nordgren, and cashed in on Dorian Isaak’s 17-yard pass to Empson.
In all, the Crimson Bears generated 12 offensive plays that went for 10 yards or more — they averaged 24.6 yards — and four special-teams plays that averaged 22.3 yards.
The first of those big plays was Campos’ 80-yard burst, which ignited the Crimson Bears, who this season dropped down to the medium-school division from the large-school division.
“It gets it going,’’ Campos said of that momentum boost. “That’s what football’s all about.’’
Meanwhile, Kenai’s clock-eating tactic was evident immediately. After taking the opening kickoff, the Kardinals broke their huddle, lined up — and waited. Quarterback T.J. Wagoner diligently eyed back judge Andrew Reynolds before each snap, waiting until Reynolds began his five-second count, left arm raised, right arm motioning from the chest outward for each second elapsed. Once the back judge begins signaling, the offense has five seconds to snap the ball or it will be penalized for delay of game.
The Kardinals were forced to abandon their clock consumption when Campos’ kickoff return to open the second half pushed Juneau’s lead to 22-6.
Still, Kenai dominated time of possession with 31 minutes, 40 seconds, to Juneau’s 16:20. And it ran 66 plays from scrimmage to Juneau’s 42. But the Crimson Bears outgained Kenai, 375-243.
They did so by keeping Daniels under wraps. And Juneau’s defense had plenty of chances to rap Daniels, who carried the ball an astounding 43 times for 160 yards and one touchdown. Juneau limited Daniels, who absorbed scores of hits and kept grinding, to 3.72 yards per carry.
“I think we did a really good job,’’ said Nordgren, a senior who plays safety on defense and running back on offense. “The seniors, we were hungry and we were focused. I had my eyes on (Daniels) the whole time. He’s a hard runner.’’
Nordgren rushed eight times for 63 yards and turned the short throw from Empson on the fake punt into a 44-yard touchdown when he gained the right sideline and benefitted from exceptional down-field blocking.
Campos played mostly quarterback in the first half, running from a wildcat formation, and played mostly running back in the second half while Isaak took over at quarterback. The exceptionally quick 5-foot-8, 150-pound Campos also plays defensive back, and he said Daniels was always in the defense’s sights.
“That’s all we had to do — stop No. 11,’’ Campos said. “He’s a player, for sure.’’
Daniels, who caught one pass for 12 yards, accounted for 70.8 percent of Kenai’s total offense. Chase Logan ran for one touchdown for Kenai, and Kyle Hunter delivered a safety when he tackled punt returner Nordgren in the end zone.
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Juneau — Campos 80 run (Nordgren run), 5:43.
Kenai — Daniels 1 run (run failed), 5:24.
Juneau — Nordgren 44 pass from Empson (kick failed), 1:38
Juneau — Campos 85 kickoff return (Campos run), 11:48.
Kenai — Logan 2 run (Scarlett kick), 8:21.
Juneau — Empson 17 pass from Isaak (kick failed), 4:07.
Juneau — Campos 46 run (Maake kick), 11:51.
Kenai — Nordgren tackled in end zone by Hunter, 10:33.
Juneau — Nordgren 23 run (Maake kick), 5:51.
RUSHING — Kenai: Daniels 43-160, Wagoner 6-29, Logan 6-9. Juneau: Campos 20-208, Nordgren 8-63.
PASSING — Kenai: Wagoner 4-11-0—45. Juneau: Isaak 5-13-0—60, Empson 1-1-0—44.
RECEIVING — Kenai: Logan 1-19, Van De Grift 1-15, Daniels 1-11, Baker 1-(-1). Juneau: Hill 3-40, Nordgren 1-44, Empson 1-17, Campos 1-9.