Eagle River football team plays through tears in 35-8 loss to Palmer

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 22:41
  • Eagle River head coach Bob Adkins talks to his team after its 35-8 loss to Palmer on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Hours before the game, Eagle River players and coaches learned one of their teammates had died the night before. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Palmer’s Jared Oviok breaks up a pass intended for Eagle River receiver Bryson Rollman during the Moose’s 35-8 Northern Lights Conference football win over the Wolves on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Grant Burningham looks for running room during the Wolves’ 35-8 Northern Lights Conference football loss to Palmer on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Eagle River. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Josh Tripp (40) and Orazio Ramos (63) pressure Palmer quarterback Luke Guggenmos during Palmer’s 35-8 Northern Lights Conference football win over the Wolves on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Kam Williams is tackled by a pair of Palmer defenders during Palmer’s 35-8 Northern Lights Conference win over the Wolves on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Eagle River High. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Eagle River’s Thad Heagy and head coach Bob Adkins embrace after the Wolves’ 35-8 loss to Palmer on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Hours before the game, Eagle River players and coaches learned one of their teammates had died the day before. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Eagle River’s loss on the gridiron Saturday afternoon was insignificant compared to the tragic loss the team suffered away from the field.

Just hours before the afternoon game against Palmer, the Wolves learned one of their teammates had died Friday night. Head coach Bob Adkins said he couldn’t give specifics about the teen’s death or name the player due to school district privacy rules, but said his team was grief-stricken by the news.

Adkins said he learned of the death during the team’s pregame pancake breakfast Saturday morning, and told the players in a private meeting.

“They all came out crying,” said Adkins, fighting back tears of his own during a postgame interview.

Adkins said the loss was devastating for his players and coaches.

“It’s…it’s hard,” he said. “We’re a family here.”

Adkins said grief counselors had been brought in by the school district to help students deal with the tragedy, and he planned to gather the team together Saturday evening at the school for a pizza feed and open gym.

“If some kids just need to talk — and maybe parents, too — we’ll do that,” he said. “You can’t make sense of it, we just have to be there for each other.”

After the game, players hugged each other and their parents, several of them visibly overcome with emotion.

Adkins said the football defeat was probably the last thing on his players’ minds.

“That pales in comparison to what they’re dealing with,” he said.

On the field, Palmer used big plays and a dominant defense to hand the Wolves a 35-8 Northern Lights Conference football loss on “Senior Night” at the Wolves’ Den.

The win lifted Palmer head coach Rod Christiansen to 150 wins, tying him with former Eielson coach Buck Nystrom for the most in Alaska coaching history.

In true Christiansen fashion, the Moose racked up 363 yards on 36 carries while only attempting eight passes.

Palmer got touchdown runs of 80, 72 and 75 yards in the first half to break the game open — with all three runs coming from different backs. Larry Cutsforth opened the scoring with an 80-yard cutback scamper in the first quarter, Jared Oviok added a 72-yard burst later in the period and Jeff Glynn ripped off a 75-yarder just before halftime to make it 21-0 Moose.

Oviok finished with 148 yards on 11 carries, Cutsforth had 108 — also on 11 carries — and Levi Farris added 86 on just four carries for the Moose, who face Kenai Central next weekend in Kenai.

Isaac Thomas caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Luke Guggenmos midway through the third quarter to give Palmer a 28-0 lead. Eagle River cut the advantage to 28-6 on a 1-yard Thad Heagy touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, but Palmer answered with a 17-yard strike from Guggenmos to Matt Daniels to make it 36-6 midway through the fourth.

The Wolves tackled Palmer running back Jaden Caple in the end zone for a safety with 28 seconds to play to provide the game’s final score.

Palmer held the Wolves to just 111 yards of total offense. Heagy led the team with 24 rushing yards on eight carries, and threw for 23 more on 3-of-5 passing.

The contest was the last home game of the season for the Wolves, who finish their NLC season with road games at Soldotna on Sept. 23 and in Kodiak on Sept. 30.

MOOSE 35, WOLVES 8

Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017

Eagle River High School

Palmer 14 7 7 7 — 35

Eagle River 0 0 0 8 — 8

1st Quarter

Pal — Larry Cutsforth 80 run (Cutsforth kick), 5:42

Pal — Jared Oviok 72 run (Cutsforth kick), 1:56

2nd Quarter

Pal — Jeff Glynn 75 run (Cutsforth kick), 0:46

3rd Quarter

Pal — Isaac Thomas 5 pass from Luke Guggenmos (Cutsforth kick), 6:26

4th Quarter

ER — Thad Heagy 1 run (pass failed), 11:15

Pal — Matt Daniels 17 pass from Guggenmos (Cutsforth kick), 8:04

ER — Safety (Jaden Caple tackled in end zone), 0:28

TEAM STATISTICS:

ER Palmer

First downs 6 13

Rushes-yards 34-76 36-363

Comp-att-int 8-13-1 4-8-0

Passing yards 35 22

Punts-avg. 8-39.3 3-31.7

Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-1

Penalties-yards 7-55 10-88

Return yards 26 35

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS:

RUSHING — Eagle River: Thad Heagy 8-24, Grant Burningham 7-22, Kam Williams 5-13, Ryan Adkins 12-12, Michael Caywood 2-5. Palmer: Jared Oviok 11-148, Larry Cutsforth 11-108, Levi Farris 4-86, Jaden Caple 4-13, Isaac Thomas 3-5, Duston Corbin 1-3, Luke Guggenmos 2-0.

PASSING — Eagle River: Thad Heagy 3-5-1—23, Ryan Adkins 5-8-0—12. Palmer: Luke Guggenmos 4-8-0—22.

RECEIVING — Eagle River: Kam Williams 4-14, Mason Piper 2-10, JT Adams 1-13, Grant Burningham 1-(-2). Palmer: Matt Daniels 2-13, Levi Farris 1-5, Skyler Hale 1-4.

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