Trojans fall 55-49 in double-overtime against Juneau-Douglas

Four quarters couldn’t separate schools 1,800 miles apart.

The Auburn Trojans lost in a high-scoring affair to the Juneau-Douglas Huskies out of Alaska, 55-49, in double overtime Sept. 8.

“When you’re down three scores and end up putting 49 points on the board, that’s a good thing. You weather the storm… Lots of ups and downs, and you got to use that for growth,” said Trojan Head Coach Aaron Chantler.

The two schools are separated by 1,800 miles, which would take upwards of 38 hours of driving and a weeks-long hike. But four quarters couldn’t separate these two sides on a football field.

The beginning of the game arguably could not have started any worse as Auburn’s first drive ended with an interception, which the Huskies turned into a 61 yard touchdown run on their first play of the game. On the following possession, Auburn quarterback Baylen Erdman threw his second interception on the first play of the drive, which resulted in a three-play 65-yard Juneau-Douglas touchdown drive.

Auburn No. 15 DJ Bielza makes a cut to juke a Husky linebacker. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Auburn No. 15 DJ Bielza makes a cut to juke a Husky linebacker. Ben Ray / The Reporter

“We gotta clean up the mental mistakes. Physically we struggled to maintain our responsibilities defensively… We just learn and get better. If you’re going to have a game like this, it’s better to do it in non-league and go through all those crazy things so you clean it up,” Chantler said on mistakes throughout the game.

Auburn did get on the board in the first quarter with a 49-yard drive capped off by Christian Titialii punching in a six-yard touchdown run. Auburn trailed 21-8 after one.

“We made some mistakes offensively early on. I said, how are the kids going to respond? They just started chipping and chipping away,” Chantler said.

The first play of the second quarter was a near exact replica of the last touchdown the Huskies scored in the first quarter. Jayden Johnson broke off another long score from 71 yards, increasing the Huskies’ lead, 27-7.

“They probably thought the game was going to be taken care of, but we just kept fighting and clawing,” Chantler said.

Under a new quarterback, senior DJ Bielza, the Trojans looked a bit more consistent and provided that fight. He led them on a 13 play, 58 yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. Bielza ran in the end zone from one yard out to cut the lead to 27-14.

“DJ played really well… He ran and threw the ball effectively,” Chantler said.

The Trojans are in the midst of a quarterback competition that still is to be decided, and making hard decisions is not one Chantler takes lightly.

Auburn defense sets up against a interesting opponent. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Auburn defense sets up against a interesting opponent. Ben Ray / The Reporter

“I told him (Erdmann) ‘We’re going to see what DJ can do and see if we can get the run game going … DJ made some really good decisions and I went to Baylen and said ‘You’re going to get another shot this season, but right now he’s hot,’” Chantler said.

After a Juneau-Douglas touchdown, Auburn had their biggest play of the half. Bielza found Titialii for a 69-yard touchdown pitch and catch.

“We got 20 on the board, so you’re thinking that’s a good half… Then you look at the scoreboard and we’re like, we gotta get a stop,” said Chantler.

The Trojans came out of the halftime break with momentum and got the stops Chantler was looking for. Senior Luvens Valcin forced and recovered a fumble on the Huskies’ first play from scrimmage.

Auburn then ran three plays, and on their fourth, RJ Conlan got Auburn within one score of Juneau-Douglas on a two-yard run. Auburn only trailed 34-28.

The Trojans from their own 25 went down to score on Titialii’s third score of the game. With 4:46 to go in the third, the sides were even at 34-34. A comeback like this has Chantler asking questions if his side has enough juice to keep going.

“Do you have enough energy with your kids playing every single snap to pull out of the hole twice? And when they do that, those are things that show a lot of character. That’s really gritty,” Chantler said.

Juneau-Douglas wasn’t done on offense. Their next possession they only needed three plays to take a 42-34 lead on a 52-yard touchdown run.

Auburn kept fighting, looking to find any way to stay in this game. From their own 36, Bielza ran for a quick 24 yards and Valcin took a defender with him into the endzone on a 5-yard score. Going into the fourth, the two sides were knotted at 42.

“We got that late touchdown and that’s just a testament to their grit… It’s a lot to be a sophomore heavy team to just do that. It bodes really well for the future,” Chantler said.

Two fumbles from the Huskies allowed Auburn to get this game to overtime.

In the first overtime, Bielza ran in for the touchdown, and it looked like they were going to go for two and the win. But a false start moved the Trojans back five yards.

Senior Ryan Lal from Fiji stepped up and, similar to last season, a team that doesn’t kick a lot needed their kicker to step up. “Our kicker kid had never played football before… He comes out and just nails it. There was no hesitation from the coaching staff. As soon as we called it we knew it was the right call,” Chantler said.

In double-OT, the Trojans couldn’t score, which meant Juneau-Douglas just needed to score and they would win. Four plays later, the Huskies quarterback scored from seven yards out, winning the game 55-49 in walkoff fashion.