The Murrieta Valley Varsity and Jr. Varsity football teams packed their gear and boarded a plane for Alaska at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday. An excited bunch of Nighthawks left California, some for the very first time, and headed north to play the Mighty Crimson Bears from Juneau-Douglas High School.
Coach Greg Ireland’s Nighthawks will certainly be out of their environment when they arrive in Juneau—no more sunny Southern California weather. It is raining and cold in Juneau. The forecast for Friday night’s game is a 90 percent chance of rain with a high of 40 degrees. Comfy for the Bears; down right freezing for the Nighthawks.
The Crimson Bears are 4-1 this season and ranked third in the state. Juneau is coming off a punishing 23-6 victory over neighboring Lathrop High in a storm. Their only loss this season has been to North Pole High School. (Yes, North Pole High School.)
Murrieta Valley takes its undefeated 3-0 record into the chilly, wet confines of Adair Kennedy Field. The Nighthawks are coming off a convincing 27-0 thrashing of the Mustangs from Eastvale Roosevelt High School.
, Murrieta Valley came in seventh in the extremely competitive Inland Division, just in front of No. 8 Chaparral of Temecula.
Coach Rich Sjoroos’ Juneau-Douglas team has averaged 40 points a game this season. Quarterback Dorian Isaak was just 3-11 in the rain last week, but his average yards passing per game is 279. He has thrown eight touchdowns.
The Nighthawks are coming off two consecutive defensive shutouts. The defense has excelled in all three games this year, allowing only 15 points— Safety Terin Solomon, denfensive backs Damon Nolan, Lafayette Waters, and Weston Brown have been tough against the pass so far.
The Crimson Bears rushed for 266 yards against Lathrop. Kaelen Lee ran for 107 yards, Gabe Cunningham for 25 and Hunter Desmond for 18. Juneau fumbled the ball away 6 times last Friday night in a rain soaked game.
Murrieta Valley’s defense has been tough against the run. Defensive linemen Jordan Silva, Michael Payne and Omar Mohamed stopped Roosevelt cold last Friday. The Nighthawks are blessed with a talented linebacker corps comprising of Mike Almodovar, Kody Thornburg, De’sean Bullock and captain Jacob Macias. This swarming group of defenders has confused, contained and shut down opposing offenses the last two weekends.
The Crimson Bears have been allowing opponents 20 points a game. Murrieta Valley’s offense and its "new and improved" offensive line will be put to the test in this Friday, especially in the rain.
Nighthawk linemen Jeremiah Boggs, Christian Vinsky, Dalton Duckett, Tanner Mott and Jacob Van Hulzen have been steadfast this season. Kyle Underwood and Brandon Rada have also contributed to the O-line’s success.
Quarterback and team leader Andrew Blake will have potent weapons to choose from against Juneau. Wide receivers Brandon Iacobellis, Aaron Paisley, Taylor Rood and Hector Bautista have been outstanding in warm, dry Southern California. They will have to step it up a notch in cold, wet and rainy Alaska.
Murrieta Valley Running back Jacob Augustine has been the workhorse of the Nighthawk running attack. This 5-feet-8-inch, 190-pound senior has been bulling through, around and over opposing defenders.
Anthony Franco and Michael Robles have picked up Augustine’s aggressive style and have added much needed depth in the backfield.
The Nighthawk kicking specialists Logan Matthews and Alex Montion may have to adjust their kicking styles to succeed in Alaska.
Unfortunately, the game will not be televised. Stay tuned to the Murrieta Patch for results and details of both Friday night’s JV game and the Varsity contest on Saturday.