From flags to pigskin

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 23:00
Eagle River High’s Matt Turner steps into lead as Wolves boys football helm
Eagle River head coach Matt Turner demonstrates the various options of a pitch along the line of scrimmage during the Wolves practice last week. The Wolves will be running varsity and JV squads only, with 42 players on the roster as of Aug. 11.

After a whirlwind of coaches last season, the Eagle River Wolves varsity football team will have some stability at the head coach slot in Matt Turner.

A 1998 Chugiak High graduate, Turner has been a longtime teacher at Eagle River, having recently completed eight seasons as the girls flag football coach.

Himself a member of the Chugiak 1996 state title team, football is his first love, although he is the school’s head track and field coach as well.

Turner’s biggest challenge so far is in getting enough numbers out to support the team. He had hoped for 70-80 players, intending on keeping 30 each at varsity and JV, with 20 for C team.

Unfortunately, like last season, the Wolves will not be fielding squads at all three levels.

This year, Eagle River will compete at varsity and junior varsity only.

“We had so many returning from C team play last season, we couldn’t do that to them again,” he said.

With the 42 on the roster, as of earlier this week, he said he will have to implement the “six-quarter rule,” which allows the teams with the smaller rosters to float players between two levels – in this case JV and varsity.

Turner said a change in the philosophy of military relocations has had a huge impact on the numbers for the fall sport.

“In the past, whole divisions would move out at one time, with another whole division coming in. This year we have been told to expect them to trickle in 30-60 families a month,” he said.

Eagle River High was hurt by the graduation of a senior-laden class and the loss of 400 families off Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson last year.

Those graduating included Ed Hall, Josh Bogowith, Tyler Reed, Derek Jensen, Ross Kneram, Pete Kott, Collin Metzel, Trevor Mosier and Nick Roth.

Turner said he has great help on the field this year, with a strong cadre of assistants including Eric Glenn (offense/QB), Rod Crum, Tyler Glenn, Kendrick Tyler (lineman coach), Joe Park (kickers/RB/DB) and Bo Stone.

Turner will handle special teams as well.

Another issue that the team will have to deal with – no home field - at least, not until the end of the season.

The Wolves play their first three home games on other fields, including this week’s season opener against Soldotna High, at Chugiak, Saturday.

The team should have its own field for Homecoming, on Sept. 20, said Turner.

“Our goal this year is to keep it fun. That’s how we intend to build the program,” he said.

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