The Service Cougars tasted their first defeat of the season Friday night, a shocking 37-14 home-field loss to the West Eagles.
The Eagles shut down one of the most potent offenses in the state to win their fourth straight game after starting the season 1-2. West and Service are both 2-1 in the Cook Inlet Conference with one game left in the regular season.
“The players bought into everything they were asked to do,” said West coach Tim Davis, whose team absorbed early season losses to two defending state champions, Division I champ East and Division II champ Soldotna. “You open up with great competition and it makes you better but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you lose four or win four to start the season. It matters what happens next week.”
West (5-2 overall) pulled off the upset with an efficient outing from senior quarterback Josh Stoltz and an outstanding performance from a tenacious defense that came up with four turnovers while giving Service’s high-tempo offense fits all night.
“We showed that we can play in our conference,” said Stoltz. “Just because we lost two games doesn’t mean anything. We showed we can be a powerhouse like have been in the past.”
The Cougars (6-1 overall) had scored 50 or more points in five of their six previous games, posting three shutouts along the way.
But their efficient offense was stifled by the Eagles. Cougars quarterback Jacob Scott was picked off four times by four different West defenders and was sacked on several occasions for drive-ending stops.
“I take the responsibility of losing this game,” said Scott. “I was just sloppy with the football. Our defense stopped them and shut them out the whole second half, our offensive line was stopping them and they weren’t coming through, our run game was there, and it was just sloppy in the passing game, and that’s my fault.”
Stoltz bounced back from a turnover-heavy game against Dimond last week. He showed great pocket presence, mobility, touch and accuracy downfield. He threw for more than 200 yards and hit two different receivers for first-half touchdowns. The first came on a 9-yard back-shoulder fade to receiver Dhar Montalbo and the second came on a go-route to Malyk Davis for a 75-yard catch and run.
West’s other touchdowns came on short runs in the red zone by Niko Fa’amasino and Elias Roehl-Paredes during the first half. In the second half the Eagles got a short Hayden Galloway field goal and their defense put the final points on the board when linebacker Colton Copelin scooped up a fumble on a high snap that sailed over the head of Damian Johnson and returned it 95 yards.
Service managed to get on the scoreboard just before halftime with a surgical four-minute drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown jaunt from Sebastian O’Farrell. The Cougars didn’t score again until the game’s final minutes when Scott hit his favorite target, Henry Helgeson, for a 12-yard touchdown.
It was a statement game for the Eagles, who put the rest of Alaska’s Division I teams on notice that their late-season surge shouldn’t be taken likely.
“I’m proud of the guys and proud of the coaches,” said Davis. “The players executed at a very high level and played with fire.”
As for the Cougars, the humbling defeat was a lesson as the postseason approaches.
“We got too high on ourselves,” Scott said. “We came into this game thinking it was going to be an easy win and they came out and punched us in the mouth.”
Colony 28, Juneau 20
Eielson 2, Seward 0 (forfeit)
Houston 65, Ketchikan 0
Kodiak 14, Kenai 7
South 39, Chugiak 14
West 37, Service 14