The East T-birds, trailing by a point after a surprisingly close first half, came alive in the second half to take a convincing 31-16 victory Saturday over the Bartlett Golden Bears in the 18th annual Battle for the Boot football game.
“They came out ready to play and we didn’t,” said East coach Jeff Trotter. “They came out and punched us in the mouth, and I think we just thought we were going to just take this game and not have to work.
“That’s a hungry team over there and they got a taste of a win now and they’re trying to make the playoffs.”
The Golden Bears, fresh off their first win of the season last week against Colony, picked up where they left off and marched down the field on the first drive of the game to take an early 8-0 lead. Demario Moore rushed 3 yards for the touchdown, and quarterback Reason Timberlake hooked up with Elijah Lilio for a successful 2-point conversion.
East responded with a quick drive capped by a 23-yard strike from quarterback Gavin Oakley to receiver Jai-Lon Oliver. In a scoreless second quarter, both teams turned the ball over on downs deep in each other’s territory.
The T-Birds went into the break trailing by a point but came out firing on all cylinders after making some adjustments. They scored 24 unanswered points in an explosive third quarter to take command.
“Coaches made some awesome adjustments at halftime,” said Trotter. “They came down with a plan, the kids did it, and it worked. We had a couple of mental errors and some screw-ups but really those adjustments were the difference in the game.”
East leaned heavily on running back Kalani Medeiros, who racked up 163 yards. Medeiros, who was fighting through illness, was an absolute workhorse in the third quarter, when he scored a pair of touchdowns.
“He came to play,” said Trotter. “He was a machine today.”
His first touchdown was 9-yarder up the middle and his second came on a 17-yard scamper during which he bounced to the outside and outran the defense. He ran effectively all afternoon both between and outside the tackles.
“I might have been sick but I had to put that aside and focus on my team,” Medeiros said. “Team first and family like always. Bouncing back from the first half to the second half, we saw flaws and we came back and fixed some of the flaws but we still have more flaws to fix.”
East’s final score came on a blocked punt that defensive lineman Kymani Vaivai returned for a short touchdown. Bartlett scored what were essentially consolation points midway through the fourth quarter when Lilio ran to the left for a short 3-yard touchdown and Reason rushed up the middle for the 2-point conversion.
With the win, the defending state champion T-birds moved to 4-1 and remain undefeated in Alaska — their only loss is against a California team. Bartlett dropped to 1-5.
It was a nonconference game but still an important one for the longtime east-side rivals. Since 2002, the East-Bartlett game has been known as the Battle for the Boot, a traveling trophy created in honor of East all-state defensive lineman Aanooali “Auno” Filoialli, who died in a 2002 car accident. A bronzed cleat that belonged to Filoialli sits on top of the trophy.