After top-ranked Service High made easy work of West, 41-19, on Saturday night to complete a perfect regular season in the Cook Inlet Conference, the only real question is whether anyone in Alaska can stop the Cougars.
Many have tried, none have succeeded, and most have had their heads handed to them.
After all, Service's average winning margin in going 7-0 in conference play was 28 points. Other than East's 35-27 loss to the Cougars and West's defeat by 22 points -- truthfully, Saturday's game at Anchorage Football Stadium never felt close -- everyone else in the CIC received turf burns from the Cougars, who scored five of their league wins by at least a 30-point margin.
Service and West are both playoff-bound, Service as the conference's top seed and West as its No. 4 seed. West beat Service, 6-0, for the state large-schools title last year, but Service enters the postseason as the prohibitive favorite this time around.
Only the Cougars have slowed themselves this season. They have a penchant for penalties, as evidenced by 20 infractions Saturday to the tune of 189 yards of back-stepping.
Even so, they command both sides of the ball.
Their defense is often stellar, and even when it bends or even buckles, it seems to come up with the big play on command. Saturday, they relentlessly blitzed West junior standout quarterback Conor Feckley and his line could do little to buy him time. And although Feckely threw two long touchdown passes, he was picked off four times in the first half -- defensive end Jeffrey Overbaugh returned the first one 37 yards for a touchdown -- and didn't complete any of his seven attempts in a rainy second half.
On offense, well, Service quarterback Amu Aukusitino rushed nine times for 94 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 8 of 10 passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. In eight games this season -- Service is 7-0-1, thanks to a season-opening tie in Hawaii -- Aukusitino has rushed for 578 yards and 10 touchdowns and passes for 1,945 yards and 17 touchdowns. Even when opponents are able to get pressure on him, he easily dances away from trouble on lightning feet.
Cougars receiver Alan Busey caught six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown Saturday, and for the season owns 58 receptions for 869 yards and nine touchdowns. Service added running back Daniel Murakami into the mix Saturday, and he delivered 134 yards on 20 carries.
West's postseason fate likely hinges on two things: Whether Feckley's line gives him enough time to pick apart defenses and whether West's defense can stop anyone.
Feckley had thrown just five interceptions all season entering Saturday, then got picked four times, twice by Busey. Feckley did throw a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Marcel Dion and a 76-yarder to Lamarr Brown, and his 239 yards passing gives him 2,098 yards for the season.
But playoff teams will likely treat Feckley like Service did -- with blitzes on virtually every down. That's because West (4-4, 3-4 CIC) does not own a running game that gives opponents pause. Witness Saturday, when West opened the game with two running plays and then did not rush the ball again the entire first half. West finished with just 14 rushing yards on 15 carries.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Service 21 13 7 0 -- 41
West 7 6 6 0 -- 19
Service -- Overbaugh 37 interception return (Bomar kick), 10:39.
Service -- Aukusitino 20 run (Bomar kick), 2:10.
Service -- Ellis 2 run (Bomar kick), :31.
West -- Dion 54 pass from Feckley (Troxel kick), :08
West -- Brown 76 pass from Feckley (kick blocked), 6:55.
Service -- Aukusitino 23 run (pass failed), 3:50.
Service -- Pili 2 run (Bomar kick), 2:11
Service -- Busey 24 pass from Aukusitino (Bomar kick), 10:05.
West -- Feckley 1 run (pass failed), 9:04.
First downs 20 9
Rushes-yards 61-300 15-14
Passing yards 125 239
Return yards 113 126
Passes 9-14-0 8-27-5
Punts 2-40.5 2-20.5
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-2
Penalties-yards 20-189 5-40
RUSHING -- Service: Murakami 20-134, Aukusitino 9-94, Pili 9-50, Ilalio 7-49, Toomer 10-17, Busey 2-13, Ellis 1-2, Raguindin 1-(-2), Team 2-(-56). West: Sailele 4-18, Tulimasealii 5-15, Feckley 3-6, Bozzini 2-(-5), Dion 1-(-20).
PASSING -- Service: Aukusitino 8-10-0--117, Toomer 1-4-0--8. West: Feckley 8-24-4--239, Bozzini 0-3-1--0.
RECEIVING -- Service: Busey 6-82, Butler 1-30, Williamson 1-8, Ilalio 1-5. West: Brown 3-97, Dion 2-66, Lawrence 2-42, Vandervort 1-24.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News