Pack mentality propels Wolves to 13-12 prep football win over Dimond

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 12:41
  • Eagle River’s Quanard Cox catches a 13-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Adkins during the second quarter of the Wolves’ 13-12 nonconference high school football win over Dimond on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Ryan Adkins hits Dimond receiver Kris Caldejon during the Wolves’ 13-12 nonconference high school football win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River tight end Bryson Rollman leaps to make a catch in front of Dimond defender Kris Caldejon (32) during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2016 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Bryson Rollman forces Dimond quarterback Paris Matuga to fumble during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River tight end Bryson Rollman takes a hit from Dimond’s Auston Vreeland after catching a pass during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s JT Adams intercepts a pass from Dimond quarterback Paris Motuga during the Wolves’ 13-12 nonconference high school football win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Quanard Cox (5) and Ryan Adkins celebrate after Cox caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Adkins during the second quarter of the Wolves’ 13-12 win over Dimond on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Grant Burnigham tackles Dimond quarterback Paris Motuga during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River receiver Justice Townsend catches a pass during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over Dimond on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Jordan Baeza forces a Dimond player to fumble the ball late in the second quarter of the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River. Baeza’s teammate, Justice Townsend, recovered the fumble and returned it 18 yards for the game-winning touchdown. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River running back Kam Williams tries to break away from the Dimond defense during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s JT Adams breaks up a pass intended for Dimond’s Kris Caldejon during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River running back Michael Caywood runs over Dimond defender Kris Caldejon during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over the Lynx on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River quarterback Ryan Adkins prepares to take the snap from center Matthew Bellman during the Wolves’ 13-12 win over Dimond on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The Eagle River Air Force JROTC color guard presents the colors before the Eagle River vs. Dimond varsity football game on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Opportunistic and unrelenting, the Eagle River Wolves worked as a pack to grind out a 13-12 nonconference prep football win over Dimond Saturday at Eagle River High.

The Wolves forced five turnovers in the game, including an 18-yard Justice Townsend fumble return that proved to be the game winner and a late JT Adams interception that proved to be the game clincher.

“He overthrew it and I had to stick my hands out and it just fell into my lap,” Adams said.

Dimond’s intended receivers tried to strip the ball, but Adams went to the ground to seal the victory.

“This is a fantastic win,” he said after helping the Wolves improve to 2-1.

Quanard Cox caught a 13-yard touchdown pass on offense and had a fumble recovery and an interception on defense for the Wolves, who open their Northern Lights Conference season at home next Saturday, Sept. 2, at 2 p.m. against Kenai Central. The Kardinals (2-1 overall, 0-0 NLC) defeated Juneau 27-0 on Saturday.

Division I Dimond (1-2 overall, 0-0 Cook Inlet Conference) outgained Division II Eagle River by 96 yards Saturday, but the Wolves made far fewer mistakes, committing less than half as many penalties as the Lynx and turning the ball over just twice.

Then there was the defense, which forced six fumbles and kept the team in the game when the offense sputtered in the second half.

“The closer we get as a team, the harder we work for each other,” said sophomore nose tackle Orazio Ramos, who once again anchored what’s becoming a fearsome Wolves’ defensive front line by clogging up the middle of the field.

Grant Burningham also recovered a fumble for the Wolves.

Ramos said getting a win over a Division 1 opponent was important, but the team knows it can’t afford to rest on its early season success.

“It gives us a lot of confidence but we know Monday it’s all gone and we’re on to the next one,” he said.

Eagle River quarterback Ryan Adkins ran for 37 yards and passed for 72 yards and a score for Eagle River, which was held to 35 yards in the second half.

The Wolves took a 13-0 lead into halftime thanks to Adkins’ perfectly-lofted swing pass to Cox out of the backfield on the first play of the second quarter and Townsend’s alert scoop-and-score on a wild play deep in Dimond territory late in the half. The game-winning play was perhaps its craziest: On a keeper up the middle, Lynx quarterback Paris Motuga fumble the ball, which was alertly scooped up by a teammate. But Eagle River’s all-conference senior lineman Jordan Baeza immediately forced a second fumble, which Townsend grabbed and gladly transported to the end zone.

Dimond cut the lead to 13-6 midway through the third quarter on a quarterback sneak by Motuga set up after the Lynx were given a short field by the Wolves, who failed to get a first down after going for it on fourth-and-two from their own 28-yard-line.

The Lynx provided the television audience at home (the game was broadcast live on GCI cable) with a dramatic finish when Motuga hit Carson Kress on a slant pass with 2:01 left in the fourth quarter to cap a crisp 12-play, 78-yard drive. With the wind swirling, Lynx coach Nick Winkler decided to go for a go-ahead two-point conversion. But after putting together its best drive of the day, Dimond made its biggest blunder when Motuga fumbled the snap. Eagle River’s Matthew Bellman fell on the ball, sending the crowd at the “Wolves’ Den” into a frenzy.

Eagle River failed to gain a first down on its ensuing possession, but the Wolves were able to run out all but 39 seconds of the clock. With time running out, Motuga sent a deep, desperate pass into the wind. Adams was waiting, leaping to intercept the ball and effectively ending the game.

“They fought the whole game and hung in there,” said first-year Wolves coach Bob Adkins, who took over a program that has never had a winning campaign and won just two games in its three previous seasons.

Adkins said his goal is to change the culture at Eagle River, where wins have been few and far between since the program started varsity play in 2006.

“I didn’t see anybody hanging their head, and there’s times in a game where it’s easy to do that,” he said. “That’s huge.”

With conference play now looming, Adkins said the Wolves need to continue to work in order to achieve their goal of reaching the state Division 2 playoffs.

“Some teams improve, some teams plateau,” he said. ‘We just need to keep striving to get better and not be satisfied.”

WOLVES 13, LYNX 12

Eagle River 0 13 0 0 — 13

Dimond 0 0 6 6 — 12

2nd Quarter

ER — Quanard Cox 13 pass from Ryan Adkins (kick blocked), 11:57

ER — Justice Townsend 18 fumble return (Heagy kick), :56

3rd Quarter

DIM — Paris Motuga 1 run (pass failed), 6:40

4th Quarter

DIM — Carson Krees 8 pass from Paris Motuga (try failed), 2:01

TEAM STATS:

ER DIM

First Downs 10 16

Rushes-yds 40-91 42-194

Comp-att-int 6-12-1 5-15-2

Passing yards 72 65

Fumbles-lost 3-1 6-3

Punts-avg 4-33.2 4-27.2

Penalties-yds 5-52 12-110

Return yds 18 19

INDIVIDUAL STATS;

RUSHING — Eagle River: Adkins 12-37, Tripp 8-27, Caywood 7-14, Cox 7-11, Williams 6-2. Dimond: Motuga 21-101, Tufaga 19-81, Caldejon 2-12.

PASSING — Eagle River: Adkins 6-12-1—72. Dimond: Motuga 5-15-2—65.

RECEIVING — Eagle River: Rollman 3-22, Townsend 2-37, Cox 1-13. Dimond: Cavazos 2-27, Tufaga 2-30, Kress 1-8.

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