Late in the second quarter Saturday afternoon, after Juneau lined up three receivers to the left and Service countered with two cornerbacks there, Juneau assistant coach Gary Lehnhart alerted head coach Rich Sjooros that his Crimson Bears appeared to have a matchup advantage.
“Hey, Rich, you’ve got 3-on-2 over here,’’ Lehnhart said.
Sjooros pointed to Service cornerback Amu Aukusitino and shook his head.
“He counts as two,’’ Sjooros said.
That may have been a conservative estimate.
Aukusitino returned three interceptions for touchdowns, returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown and threw three passes for touchdowns to lead Service to a 58-10 demolition of Juneau in a large-school high school football quarterfinal at Dimond’s Alumni Field.
Oh, and he did all that in the first half, when he accounted for 454 all-purpose yards — 213 yards on his interception and blocked kick returns, 155 yards passing with 10 completions on 15 attempts, and 86 yards rushing on nine carries.
“He’s talented,’’ Sjooros said. “He has great instincts. Not too many come along like him in high school, especially in Alaska.
“He’s just a special kid, and he can hurt you in so many ways.’’
Aukusitino, who quarterbacked the Cougars to the state title as a junior last season, spearheaded an effort that delivered Service’s 18th consecutive victory over an Alaska opponent and advanced it into the semifinals. The last time Service (9-1) lost to an Alaska team was its 6-0 setback to West in the 2009 state championship game, and its only loss this season came in the season opener in Hawaii.
Aukusitino’s exploits were generally greeted with a shrug on his sideline — been there, seen that.
“It’s just the usual, that’s all I can say,’’ said Service linebacker Hiapo McCandless.
Service coach Numi Ilalio knows he has a special player in Aukusitino, and said the senior is a perfectionist who will lament his lost fumble and interception Saturday — Juneau’s Brenyn Marshall bagged both — and use it as fuel.
“He hasn’t played a perfect game, and my job is to keep coaching him and fine-tuning,’’ Ilalio said.
Aukusitino hooked up with C.J. Toomer for two touchdown passes and connected with Marques Robinson for another. His interception returns covered 46, 45 and 32 yards, respectively, and his blocked field goal return consumed 90 yards.
So dominating was Aukusitino on defense that even though the Cougars did not run a single snap from scrimmage in the last 5 minutes, 6 seconds of the first half, they nonetheless ballooned a 31-3 advantage into a 52-3 lead at halftime.
That’s because Aukusitino returned his second interception for a touchdown, raced the length of the field with the blocked field goal and added another interception return.
All of that pierced injury-plagued Juneau, which lost senior quarterback Phillip Fenumiai to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 and has been beset by ailments all season, yet made it to the postseason.
“The kids have done enough tremendous things to get as far as we did,’’ Sjooros said. “We just ran into a bigger, stronger, faster team.’’
The Crimson Bears generated a few long pass plays on the Cougars and opened the scoring on Jackson Lehnhart’s 22-yard field goal. But Service brought relentless pressure on quarterbacks Dorian Isaak and Trevor Pfaff and forced four interceptions. McCandless, an edge rusher, consistently blew into the backfield and racked two sacks.
“It looks like I’m going to heaven when I see that quarterback,’’ McCandless said.
As for Aukusitino, he seemed happier that big Erich Pili and Waska Awailin scored rushing touchdowns than he did about his own exploits.
“My parents taught me to be humble since I was little, and I try to keep that inside and remember that,’’ he said.
Ilalio said San Diego State, Hawaii, Colorado and California have shown recruiting interest in Aukusitino. A coach from the University of North Dakota called about Aukusitino before the game, Ilalio said.
Aukusitino said he’s just focused on helping his team get better each day. He speaks so softly you sometimes have to lean in to hear his words.
Saturday, though, his performance was ear-splitting.
“He’s very quiet off the field,’’ Ilalio said, “but he’s a beast on the field.’’
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Juneau 3 0 7 0 — 10
Service 19 33 6 0 — 58
Juneau — 22 FG Lehnhart, 8:10.
Service — Toomer 25 pass from Aukusitino (kicked failed), 6:13.
Service — Toomer 9 pass from Aukusitino (Raguindin kick), 2:20.
Service — Aukusitino 46 interception return (run failed), :48.
Service — Pili 7 run (kick failed), 11:54.
Service — Robinson 8 pass from Aukusitino (kick failed), 5:06.
Service — Aukusitino 45 interception return (Raguindin kick), 4:09.
Service — Aukusitino 90 blocked field goal return (Raguindin kick), 1:14.
Service — Aukusitino 32 interception return (Raguindin kick), :16.
Service — Awailin 2 run (kick blocked), 5:19.
Juneau — Hill 11 pass from Isaak (Lehnhart kick), 1:38
First downs 9 20
Rushes-yards 24-33 38-227
Passing yards 232 155
Return yards 145 277
Passes 11-32-4 10-15-1
Punts 5-30.2 1-35.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 2-25 3-35
RUSHING — Juneau: Pfaff 4-23, Williams 14-18, Vance 2-8, Nauer 2-1, Isaak 2-(-17) . Service: Aukusitino 9-86, Corder 9-52, Toomer 4-35, Black 4-19, Awailin 5-17,Jones 3-10, Pili 1-7, McCallum 1-5, Bresser 1-1, Freestone 1-(-5) .
PASSING — Juneau: Isaak 10-20-3—194, Pfaff 1-12-1—38. Service: Aukusitino 10-15-1—155.
RECEIVING — Juneau: Hill 3-73, Williams 3-53, Pfaff 2-7, Brassfield 1-41, Campos 1-40, Tupou 1-18. Service: Toomer 3-50, Brown 2-27, Ilalio 1-38, Butler 1-15, Aliju 1-15, Robinson 1-8, Pearce 1-2.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News