EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE—The unbeaten Eielson High School football team was humbled this week by a cinematic experience.
Head coach David DeVaughn replayed a video of last season’s 21-20 loss to the Barrow Whalers, whom the Ravens face at 1 p.m. Saturday in a small schools state semifinal at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base.
Monday’s viewing of the one-point loss in 2011 season was a reminder to the Ravens to stay focused despite an 7-0 regular season this year, including a 5-0 finish in Greatland Conference play for Eielson’s eighth league title since 2003.
“It kind of brings them back in,” DeVaughn, during a break in Thursday night’s practice, said of the video.
Eielson also is concerned about a 2012 Whalers squad that was outscored 110-0 in its last two games of the regular season, including a 53-0 loss to the Ravens on Sept. 22 at Buck Nystrom Field.
“It’s that wounded animal,” DeVaughn reflected. “They’ve got nothing to lose, so they’re going to empty out their playbook and do things to extend their season.”
Barrow, said head coach Brad Igou, is in a do-or-die situation Saturday just one year after playing in the small schools state championship game. The Whalers ended the regular season last week with a 57-0 loss at Greatland runner-up Nikiski to finish fourth (2-3 conference, 4-3 overall).
“We need to look better than we have,” Igou said Thursday night from Barrow. “Basically, there’s been an emphasis this week on eliminating the little mistakes and the things that caused us to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The Interior Jamboree in early August at Lathrop High School offered an indication of what a small-numbered Ravens was capable of achieving this season. Eielson hustled and was aggressive in the scrimmages against large schools and Railbelt Conference teams Lathrop, West Valley and North Pole.
“That’s how these guys have attacked everything,” DeVaughn said. “We saw it previously in camps and stuff coming up this summer, and we knew if we could keep these guys healthy, they were going to gel into something special.
“I think that jamboree confirmed that for us and opened everybody’s else eyes to what we could potentially be.”
The Ravens this season have been aided by a 1,000-plus yards rusher in sophomore Anthony Griffith and spurred by a relentless defense. Eielson held its last three opponents — Greatland teams Monroe Catholic and Barrow and a nonconference regular season-ending game at Lathrop — to a combined 42 points, while the Ravens offense generated 168 points during that span.
“Eielson Ravens football has usually been known for its aggressiveness,” Shawn Smith, a two-way senior lineman, said during Thursday’s practice. “In the past couple of years, we were going away from it. So we’re bringing it back, and we’re making hits and making plays.”
The Ravens have been doing so with heart while playing with 17 players throughout the season.
“This year, we’ve been coming together as a group,” Smith said. “Last year, we didn’t have that drive and passion like we do this year. This year, we need all 11 to do it, to be this complete team. This year, our heart has been set on the task at hand.”
The Barrow-Eielson winner advances to the small schools state title game at Chugiak High School during the weekend of Oct. 12-13, facing the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal between host Nikiski and third-place Monroe Catholic.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.