Prep Football: Explosive 2nd quarter lifts West to 48-7 win over Juneau in first round of D1 state playoffs

Juneau, Alaska (Alaska Sports Report/Van Williams) - Normally, it’s the West offense that beats opponents into the ground. But on Friday night, defense and special teams took care of business.

Above: West’s Mason Tanoa ran in a 2-point conversion and later caught a touchdown pass. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

By Van Williams/Alaska Sports Report

Trailing early in the second quarter, the top-seeded Eagles used three explosive scoring plays in the second quarter to fuel a major momentum swing that fueled a 48-7 home win over Juneau in the first round of the ASAA Division I state playoffs. Right after Juneau had taken a 7-6 lead, West’s Aarion Alexander took the ensuing kickoff 92 yards to the house to get the comeback started. Moments later, JT Bautista scored on a 76-yard punt return. And then right before halftime Jordan Muasau scored on a 71-yard fumble return.The game was never close again as the Eagles shut out Juneau in the second half to improve to 8-1 and advance to next week’s semifinals.

West’s offensive stars did shine, with quarterback Azariah Atonio producing 182 total yards with three touchdowns and running back Davis Iloilo carrying the ball 18 times for 113 yards and a TD. But this night belonged to defense and special teams, especially in the second quarter when the offense ran five plays and managed just 12 yards in 12 minutes.

Enter Alexander, a West basketball standout who proved he could be great on the gridiron. He fielded a booming kickoff with an over-the-shoulder grab at the 8-yard line, turned up field, and then turned on the jets. Alexander stiff-armed the punter near midfield to give him the space he needed to break away and give West the lead for good. West’s defense forced a punt on Juneau’s next possession, which led to Bautista’s beautiful return.

Juneau’s Samuel Sarof rushed for 62 yards. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

At the end of the first half and with Juneau marching all the way to the 5-yard line, the Huskies looked like they would cut into a 21-7 deficit. But disaster stuck after the quarterback was flushed from the pocket and fumbled, and Muasau scooped up the loose ball and followed a convoy of blockers down the sideline to the end zone. In addition to scoring, the West defense recovered seven punts, recovered three fumbles, and got an interception from Alexander at the end of the game. West had beaten Juneau 59-21 in Week 7 of the regular season after racing out to a 50-point halftime lead. This game started much differently as the Eagles led 6-0 after the first quarter. Juneau worked the clock and played with purpose, methodically moving the ball, and taking a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter after Hayden Aube found star receiver Jayden Johnson on a 29-yard TD pass. The celebration was short-lived as Alexander scored on the ensuing kickoff to kickstart West’s 48-point unanswered barrage. Atonio threw for 136 yards and connected on scoring strikes to Aaron Hampton and Mason Tanoa. He added another 46 yards on the ground and scored on a 14-yard run. Hampton, the Oregon State-bound playmaker, finished with three catches for 69 yards and a TD.

West’s Aaron Hampton hauled in his sixth TD grab of the season. Photo by Bryan Boyett/Alaska Sports Report

Davis, the team’s bellwether back, scored the game’s first TD on a 1-yard plunge. He had five runs of 10 yards or more, keyed by a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter. He needs just 11 yards to reach the 1,000 for the season. Johnson, who is Juneau’s big-play magnet, managed only 35 receiving yards to finish the season with 970 yards of total offense on the season. He scored on a nice stop-and-go route, blocked an extra point and drew two 15-yard pass interference calls. West outgained Juneau 301-114 in total yards.

Juneau 0 7 0 0 – 7
West 6 21 14 7 – 48

West – Iloilo 1 run (kick blocked)
Juneau – Johnson 29 pass from Aube (Menz kick)
West – Alexander 92 kickoff return (Tanoa run)
West – Bautista 76 punt return (Crowley kick)
West – Muasau 71 fumble return (kick missed)
West – Hampton 25 pass from Atonio (Crowley kick)
West – Atonio 14 run (Crowley kick)
West – Tanoa 26 pass from Atonio (Crowley kick)