Moose Eye A Playoff Win On Their Home Turf

8 October 2016

There’s going to be a lot of firsts at Palmer High School Saturday afternoon.

Palmer High School is hosting a state football playoff for the first time.

The Palmer Moose are in the medium-schools postseason for the first time after joining the class prior to the 2015 season.

And the Moose will face Thunder Mountain for the first time in school history when the teams take Machetanz Field Saturday at 4 p.m. at Palmer High School.

Palmer High is the host school for the ASAA medium-schools football postseason for the next three years. The ASAA Board of Directors awarded Palmer High’s bid to become the new home of the medium and small-schools state playoffs during the offseason. Longtime Palmer head coach Rod Christiansen said the Moose are excited about the opportunity to host a playoff game, but a bigger prize remains the primary goal.

“Not a whole lot of teams ever get the chance to play for a championship,” Christiansen said earlier this week. “This week’s about that. Win this week, and we get to play for a championship.”

With a win over Thunder Mountain, Palmer would advance to a state title game for the fifth time since 1995.

To accomplish that goal, the Moose must first get by a Falcons squad that finished 6-2 overall, and captured the Southeast Conference title. Even though the Moose have never played Thunder Mountain, a Juneau-based program, in school history, and teams from Southcentral Alaska don’t often see squads from the Southeast, Christiansen said Palmer has seen plenty of film of the Falcons. When Thunder Mountain hits the Machetanz turf Saturday afternoon, the Falcons won’t arrive as a total unknown.

“There’s no unknown there. (We’ve) scouted each other pretty good,” Christiansen said.

On film, Christiansen said the Moose coaching staff sees a Falcons squad that could be among the best teams Thunder Mountain has put on the field in its now eight-year history as a program.

“It’s the most speed they’ve ever had. The strongest team they’ve ever had,” Christiansen said.

Thunder Mountain has scored 30 or more points in four of its eight games this season, 50 or more three times and put 80 on the board against Ketchikan two weeks ago.

“They have put up the points,” Christiansen said. “They’ve got some players.”

Christiansen said the Falcons remind him a bit of Kenai.

Kenai and Lathrop handed Thunder Mountain its two losses. Kenai beat the Falcons 23-12 and Lathrop got past the Falcons 35-0.

A victory over Kenai is part of a three-game winning streak Palmer is riding into the postseason, and the reason the Moose clinched a berth. Palmer used its 21-7 win over the Kards two weeks ago to finish second in the Northern Lights Conference with a 3-1 mark. After starting the season 0-3, the Moose are 4-1 in the final five weeks of the year.

“We knew going in, with that schedule, things were going to be tough,” Christiansen said.

The Moose opened with consecutive losses to East Anchorage, Bartlett and Colony, three teams that are in the large-schools playoffs this season.

“It was tough to get through, but we are better for it,” Christiansen said.

But since that point, Palmer has wins over Kodiak, Eagle River, Kenai and Wasilla. The only loss in the last five weeks came against Soldotna, the four-time defending state champion that’s riding a state-record 47-game winning streak.

“We’re getting it done,” Christiansen said. “Hopefully we can continue getting it done.”


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