Mustangs come up short in wild ride to finish
For most of the second and third quarters between Service High and Chugiak High last Friday, the teams played like heavyweight contenders eschewing defense for offense and trading touchdowns like punches, neither forging more than a touchdown lead.
The Mustangs, who finished the season 5-4 and champions of the Railbelt Conference, survived a shaky first half of playoff football, overcoming several fumbles and defensive lapses to remain tied at 21 with the visiting Service at the break.
But with just under eight minutes to play, down by five points and driving downfield, quarterback Hunter Harr’s pass in the left flat was intercepted by the Cougars Nathan Fromm, who ran 70 yards untouched for the final score of the night and a 54-42 win.
“We were just a couple of plays away from a win tonight,” coach Roger Spackman told his charges in their final huddle together.
After the game, senior Merrick Johnson, who scored twice, punishing would-be tacklers en route to 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns, dismissed his own efforts by saying, “I’d rather have a bad game and win. They (Service) came out fired up, they wanted the win, they came out and got it, that’s the bottom line.”
Railbelt Conference Player of the Year Derryk Snell contributed a 50-yard touchdown, several long runs and played well on defense.
Senior Bryant White scored the team’s first TD of the night on a 38-yard carry, and had several other fine runs as well.
White’s score tied the game in the first, before Chugiak took its first lead on a seven-yard pass from Hunter Harr to Tyler Carlos.
Service answered right back with a pair of scores including a touchdown pass to Fromm and an 82-yard run by Dominik Norman, but the Mustangs tied it again just before halftime when Peter Giannulious recovered a fumble in the end zone.
The teams then traded three touchdowns apiece in the third quarter, with a touchdown by Service quarterback Xavier Harris followed by a seven-yard score by Johnson, who then answered Service’s next score with a three-yard run barely a minute later.
Harris then hit another big play with a 45-yard touchdown pass and Snell responded with a 50-yard scoring run of his own for a 42-41 lead after Service had missed the point-after try on its sixth touchdown.
But that would close out the scoring for Chugiak, which saw Harris score again to open the fourth quarter and Fromm’s pick six to clinch it.
Looking ahead to next year, quarterback Harr encouraged his returning teammates to learn from the efforts of the departing seniors and “step it up.”
“They’re gonna be a good team, a dang good team,” Johnson said.