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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cougars swipe Alaska football title

Brown Faaaliga sat in silence beside his Service High teammates Friday night, listening to his assistant coach's long-distance pep talk.

On the other end of the line was Fenumiai Ilalio Jr., talking to the Cougars from Kansas while they ate a pre-state championship game dinner. Ilalio, known as "Numi," is preparing for deployment with the Alaska Army National Guard and will be in Afghanistan next month.

"We're winning state for you, Numi," the Cougars told the coach before he left.

"No, you win this by yourselves," the coach told the Cougars.

Service made Ilalio -- and the rest of the southside faithful -- proud Saturday.

The Cougars clawed back from a 14-point deficit, scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and kept Juneau-Douglas' best player out of the end zone to outlast the Crimson Bears 22-14 in the First National Bowl large-schools state championship at Anchorage Football Stadium before an estimated 1,900 fans.

"We talked to coach Numi yesterday, and he said, 'Hey, at the end the prize is sweet,' Faaaliga said. "I believe him! I believe him!"

Faaaliga proved just how sweet it was to win the school's first state title in nine seasons. The senior linebacker wore a candy lei -- a necklace of wrapped Reese's and Doublemint Gum and other goodies -- around his neck. In the Polynesian culture, a lei symbolizes eternity.

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