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State football championship at stake when West, Service meet again

Jeremy Peters

Hang around football coaches, players and broadcasters long enough and the notion that it's difficult to beat a good football team twice keeps popping up.

It's a feat West will attempt to accomplish Saturday against Service in the First National Bowl large-school state championship game at Anchorage Football Stadium.

The Eagles pulled it off in 2010 when they won the school's only state title. West bookended that season with wins over Service, triumphing 6-0 in the title game after opening the campaign with a 38-35 win over the Cougars.

Nearly a month has passed since West blew out Service 52-16 in the penultimate week of the regular season, leaving plenty of time for each team to make adjustments. Service committed seven turnovers in that one-sided game, including four interceptions from quarterback C.J. Toomer.

"Now, they know what they have to do to in order for them not to repeat the same thing," said West's Leroy Elliott, the Cook Inlet Conference offensive player of they year. "They had a lot of mistakes in that Week 7 game and now it's to their advantage 'cause now they know their mistakes. That's the scary thing."

Service is a different team than it was a month ago, senior center Rhys Sands said, thanks in large part to the embarrassment of that lopsided loss.

"It definitely lit a fuse for us, definitely woke us up," he said.

Sands works closely with Toomer on recognizing defensive schemes, and both players have been putting in extra time watching film this week. Between team and individual study time, they estimate they've spent two to three hours a day watching videos of West.

The Cougars won three straight games since falling to West, two against Dimond and one against Chugiak, outscoring opponents 144-68 along the way.

West is riding an eight-game winning streak after losing its first two games of the season. It reached the title game by virtue of a thrilling 26-23 overtime win over Palmer last week.

This marks the fifth straight season two CIC teams will play for the state championship, and three of the past four champs managed to beat the runner-up twice in the same season.

Bartlett beat runner-up Chugiak twice in 2009, West did it to Service in 2010 and Service knocked off South twice in winning the 2011 title. South was the only team to rebound from a regular-season loss to claim a title, beating the Cougars in the championship last season.

While both acknowledge the tactical difficulties involved with beating a good team twice in a season, neither Service coach Kevin Kern nor West coach Tim Davis think the concept always applies.

"I think it's a mental state, so it just depends on how you coach 'em up," Kern said. "They've got a great coaching staff over there, so they really pump those kids up."

Each season takes on a life of its own, as does each game, Davis said, and all any team can do is take each game as it comes. The trick to preparing for a championship game is to keep everyone's emotions in check.

"There is an electricity to a championship week," Davis said. "It's in the kids, it's in the air. I don't want to get too existential, here, but it's kind of everywhere."

Some statistical achievements for fans to monitor include Toomer's extension of the unofficial single-season state passing record. His 2,624 yards through 10 games has already bettered the old record of 2,559 set by West's Conor Feckley in 2011.

Three of Toomer's targets are among the top five receivers in the CIC -- league-leading Armend Aliju with 45 receptions, Thavun Sriseneha (fourth with 38) and Nashon Fromm (fifth with 37).

For West, Elliott comes in as the CIC's second-leading receiver with 41 catches, and running back Lui Faamasino's 975 rushing yards puts him one yard behind league-leading Gabe Mingledorff of Chugiak.

By game time, winning will be the only thing on players' minds. One advantage both teams have is the knowledge that, win or lose, they can leave everything on the field, because there aren't anymore games after this.

"At the end of this week, the high is going to be such an emotional high that it might be difficult to learn lessons and it might be easy to overlook things," Davis said. "The low for the team that ends up on the wrong side of the scoreboard is going to be so low, it blinds you from the lessons you need to learn."

Reach Jeremy Peters at jpeters@adn.com or 257-4335.

First National Bowl

Saturday

Anchorage Football Stadium

Medium-school championship

Noon — Juneau (9-1) vs.

Soldotna (10-0)

Large-school championship

4 p.m. — West (8-2) vs.

Service (8-2)

Tickets

$10 adults, $5 students and seniors

Live TV, GCI cable Channel 1

Noon — Juneau vs. Soldotna

4 p.m. — West vs. Service

Sunday replay

9 a.m. — All three championship games will be aired consecutively

Radio broadcasts

3 p.m. — Large-school pre-game show, AM-590 and FM-96.7

4 p.m. — West vs. Service,

AM-590 and FM-96.7

2013 Cook Inlet Conference Football Leaders

Rushing

Att Yds TDs Avg

Gabe Mingledorff, Chugiak 148 976 8 6.6

Lui Faamasino, West 167 975 7 5.8

Ed Hall, Eagle River 124 470 6 4.8

Justice Augafa, South 60 408 6 6.8

Eric Jones, Service 89 403 4 4.5

Passing

Comp Att Yds TDs Int

C.J. Toomer, Service 175 330 2,624 30 14

Jeremiah Maga, Dimond 92 192 1,399 14 15

Tyrone Davis, West 85 165 1,339 14 7

Alec Valdez, South 42 80 625 7 5

Peter Kott, Eagle River 41 113 616 3 10

Receiving

Rec Yds TDs Avg

Armend Aliju, Service 45 548 9 12.2

Leroy Elliott, West 41 806 10 19.7

Marquez Buster, Dimond 39 643 9 16.5

Thavun Sriseneha, Service 38 759 6 20.0

Nashon Fromm, Service 37 594 5 16.0



* Statistics are unofficial, and based on game coverage by the ADN and other newspapers, and information provided by varsity coaching staffs. There is no official stat-keeping body for Alaska football.

 


By JEREMY PETERS
jpeters@adn.com