No matter what position he plays, Service's Amu Aukusitino is a force on the football field.
An injury forced him out of his usual job as quarterback, but it was tough to tell he was hurt. Aukusitino, last season's offensive player of the year, scored four touchdowns on a rainy Saturday night at Anchorage Football Stadium and led defending state champion Service to a 42-0 win over Bartlett in a Cook Inlet Conference game.
"He's amazing. He had a hurt shoulder and still stepped up, made plays," said Service quarterback C.J. Toomer, who started in Aukusitino's usual position.
Aukusitino started the game at safety, but kept bugging Service coach Numi Ilalio to let him come in on offense.
"I'm good, I heal fast," Aukusitino said of various injuries suffered during the season opener in Hawaii last weekend. "Wherever the team needs me, that's where I'm gonna play."
He made the most of his chances, punching in a 1-yard touchdown run to give Service a 6-0 lead near the end of the first quarter, then adding rushing touchdowns of 10 and 7 yards in the second quarter. His biggest highlight came on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Toomer with five seconds remaining in the first half, giving the Cougars a 35-0 halftime lead.
"He's a total team player," Ilalio said. "He wanted to step up and help us wherever we needed him. It's fortunate to have a good backup quarterback like C.J."
Toomer proved beyond adequate as a passer, completing 19 of 22 passes for 284 yards, including a 49-yard strike to Trevor Williamson for the second half's only score.
"I love playing quarterback," Toomer said. "It's awesome to lead a team, to put it on your shoulders and play,"
Service improved to 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the CIC. Bartlett fell to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the CIC.
Bartlett, a team full of young players running a new system under first-year coach Daniel Esparza, hung with Service until midway through the second quarter, when things started to unravel.
Trailing 6-0 and setting up for a punt near midfield, Bartlett's snapper sent the ball over the punter's head and the Golden Bears lost 28 yards. Service took over at the Bartlett 10 and Aukusitino ran for a score on the next play.
Compounding the mistake, Bartlett fumbled the first snap of its next possession, giving Service the ball seven yards from pay dirt. Aukusitino struck for his third score on Service's second play of the ensuing drive.
When Ihro Raguindin broke free on a short pass from Toomer and scampered 72 yards for a score, Service was in command with a 28-0 lead and about three minutes remaining in the first half.
"Service is pretty good, and we knew they were be gonna be good coming in," Esparza said. "We hung in and we fought with them. We have so many sophomores and juniors right now, so many kids who just played the second varsity football game of their life, and we just have to continue to progress and get better."
The Service defense appeared to be in championship form, holding Bartlett to just three first downs and forcing sophomore quarterback Zyrelle Jones to be run for his life on many plays.
Mercy rules dictated a shift to a running clock in the fourth quarter, and the Service defense didn't have to take the field again, as the offense maintained possession for the entire period.
Despite the impressive outing from the Cougars, Ilalio said there is plenty of room to improve. If he's right, the rest of the CIC could be in trouble.
"We got a lot of work to do," Ilalio said. "We were kind of flat, a lot of butterflies, a lot of kids in new positions. I'm happy with the result for the kids, but not quite satisfied yet with where we need to be in terms of rhythm and the tempo I want to be."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
Service 6 29 7 0 -- 42
Bartlett 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Service -- Amu Aukusitino 1 run (pass fail), :43
Service -- Aukusitino 10 run (Toomer run), 8:58
Service -- Aukusitino 7 run (Ihro Raguindin kick), 8:03
Service -- Raguindin 72 pass from Toomer (Raguindin kick), 2:59
Service -- Aukusitino 41 pass from Toomer (Raguindin kick), :05
Service -- Trevor Williamson 49 pass from Toomer (Raguindin kick), 9:42
First downs 14 3
Rushes-yards 34-167 23-14
Passing yards 284 40
Return yards 59 49
Passes 19-22-0 8-11-0-40
Punts-avg 1-35 5-50.33
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-2
Penalties-yards 15-130 3-15
Rushing -- Service: Aukusitino 10-59; McCandless 8-59; Toomer 9-30; Awalin 4-11; Corder 2-8; Milo 1-0. Bartlett: Heckmann 7-25; Irving 1-3; Parker 1-0; Washington 1-(-3); Rowland 1-(-5); Jones 12-(-6).
Passing -- Service: Toomer 19-22-0-284. Bartlett: Jones 8-11-0-40.
Receiving -- Service: Williamson 6-99; Raguindin 5-105; Butler 4-23; Fromm 2-15; Headstrom 1-5; Aukusitino 1-41. Bartlett: Irving 4-24; Hoffman 2-8; Rowland 1-8; Heckmann 1-0.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News