HOUSTON — The Wasilla Warriors started Matt Jaronik’s head coaching career off on a high note.
The Warriors trounced the Houston Hawks at Houston High School 31-6 on Friday night behind the powerful running attack of junior running back Timothy Grisso and a gritty defensive performance from junior defensive back Jaidas Huffman.
“I was really nervous so it feels like a relief that we got out the way we did but I’m happy,” said Jaronik. “I think coming out and they just smacked us around and we settled in and understood what level of physicality we needed to bring and when we brought ourselves up to that level we started to have success.”
The Houston running attack was successful early in the game, taking small chunks of yardage one play at a time. Following a back-and-forth first quarter, the Hawks started the scoring in the second quarter with a four yard run from quarterback Colton Brunn. Wasilla’s defense began creating opportunities for the offense early in the game and continued the trend all night long. Massive senior linebacker Payson White recovered a fumble in the first and Maxwell Larson recovered a fumble in the second quarter.
Wasilla quarterback Jacob Mahoney pushed into the end zone from one yard out to tie the score at six at the start of the second quarter.
“I just liked the sticktoitiveness especially on offense,” said Jaronik. “Staying in the fight defensively and offense it was just chip, chip, chip, let’s take a big block.. Now chip, chip, let’s take a big block so just that resiliency I was really happy to see.”
Huffman picked off Houston passes twice during the game, accumulating a short return on the first interception with 4:07 left in the first half. Just three plays later, Grisso ran around the end of the Houston defense to score from eight yards out, giving the Warriors a touchdown lead at halftime.
Not only did Wasilla recover two fumbles and two interceptions, but the Warriors recovered an onside kick in each half. After a Jadon Sheveleland squib kick on a kickoff ended up in the hands of the Warriors, Mahoney connected with White who ran over a Hawk defender en route to the end zone, giving Wasilla a two touchdown lead.
“It’s something we emphasize every single week. I mean it’s one of the biggest determining factors in who wins a ballgame is what’s your turnover margin and we place a huge emphasis on turnovers in practice and creating them and recovering them. I’m glad to see it on the field.”
Wasilla’s Izak Punturo scored just 23 seconds after White, running in from three yards out early in the second half to give the Warriors a 19-point advantage with the extra point from Sheveland. Huffman leapt into the air and pulled down his second interception of the game midway through the fourth quarter. On the very next snap, the Warriors kept the ball in Huffman’s hands. Huffman sped around the end of the Houston defense for a 59-yard touchdown and the final score of the night. Despite the lopsided victory, Jaronik held a great deal of respect for the Hawk team.
“That’s a really really good football team regardless of what happened on the field that is a really good football team and they have been every single time we’ve played them and I’m really impressed with what they do every year,” said Jaronik.
Wasilla is scheduled to play Kodiak in Kodiak next week.