Mustangs fall in frantic state football semifinal
At one point during a frantic Friday night at Anchorage Football Stadium, steam rising from the turf at Anchorage Football hung over the players like a fog.
Even the field was breathing heavy.
In a First National Bowl Division I semifinal thriller, Bartlett used an unstoppable running game to outlast Chugiak 75-62 and reach the state title game — ending the Mustangs’ dream of a perfect season in the process.
“We were trying everything we could, we just couldn’t slow it down,” said Chugiak head coach Roger Spackman, whose team finished 9-1 and won back-to-back Railbelt Conference titles.
Bartlett running back Jontay Edwards rumbled for 387 yards on 45 sublime carries, using both power and speed to rack up seven touchdowns. Hunter Cargill added 201 yards on 23 carries for the Golden Bears, whose Wing-T attack piled up 611 rushing yards on the night.
“They’re legit,” Spackman said. “That’s the best Bartlett team I’ve seen in a while.”
Chugiak’s offense was almost as impressive as the teams’ back-and-forth display of firepower threatened to melt the scoreboard. The Mustangs racked up more than 527 yards of offense, with senior star Derryk Snell scoring five times to finish his eye-popping senior season with 38 touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Hunter Harr completed 19 of 29 passes for 273 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for Chugiak. Harr also ran for 81 yards and a score for the Mustangs, who got six catches for 86 yards and a score from Ramal Maad. Maad — one of 20 seniors on the roster — also had a rushing touchdown, as did sophomore Austin Harr.
Despite catching 11 passes for 160 yards and running for 100 yards on 11 carries, Snell took the blame for the loss. The all-conference linebacker said Chugiak’s defense failed to respond to the challenge presented by the big, bruising Bears.
“That’s on me, I didn’t step up big enough on defense,” he said.
Snell wiped away tears as he left the field for the final time as a high school player. So did most of his teammates, but Spackman said the Mustangs have nothing to be ashamed of after putting together one of the best seasons in school history.
“In a few days their perspective will change,” Spackman said. “Regardless of whether we won or lost, we had an awesome year.”
The teams traded four touchdowns each in the first half, with Snell scoring four times and Edwards three in a 28-28 first half. The turning point in the game came on the first play of the third quarter, a 65-yard Edwards thunderclap that gave Bartlett its first lead of the game. The Golden Bears would never trail again.
“I think that was a backbreaker,” said Bartlett co-head coach John Jessen.
Chugiak quickly re-tied the game on an Austin Harr touchdown run, but Cargill put the Golden Bears up for good when he scored on a 20-yard run and converted the ensuing two-point try to make it 43-35. Chugiak pulled back within a point on a Ramal Maad touchdown run, but back-to-back touchdown runs by Bartlett quarterback Zai Malia-Hughes and Edwards put the game out of reach.
Chugiak’s players took the loss hard afterward, hugging and crying as many realized they’d played their final game together. A tight-knit squad with players who came up together through the youth ranks, Chugiak’s players said saying goodbye to each other will be the hardest part.
“I’m going to remember them more for off the field than on I think,” said Hunter Harr.
Chugiak senior center Ian Stover called the past six months of his life “my favorite summer,” and said for that reason he won’t mourn the Mustangs’ loss.
“I’d rather have these great friends than a state championship,” Stover said.
Stover said Friday’s disappointing final score means little compared to those friendships.
“Football is never really about football,” he said. “It’s about the people you play with.”
CORRECTION: Story has been updated to correct the final score.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org
GOLDEN BEARS 75, MUSTANGS 62
Chu — Snell 33 run (Sitz kick), 10:26
Bar — Suon 11 pass from Malia-Hughes (Iakopo kick), 6:49
Chu — Snell 12 pass from H. Harr (Sitz kick), 6:27
Bar — Edwards 1 run (Iakopo kick), 2:32
Chu — Snell 24 run (Sitz kick), 11:50
Bar — Edwards 2 run (kick missed), 9:14
Chu — Snell 5 run (Sitz kick), 1:42
Bar — Edwards 5 run (Malia-Hughes run), :20
Bar — Edwards 65 run (Iakopo kick), 11:49
Chu — A. Harr 1 run (Sitz kick), 9:34
Bar — Cargill 20 run (Cargill run), 7:41
Chu — H. Harr 35 run (Sitz kick), 5:29
Bar — Edwards 3 run (Edwards run), 3:14
Chu — Maad 10 run (Snell run), 1:32
Bar — Malia-Hughes 3 run (Cargill run), 10:34
Bar — Edwards 5 run (Cargill run), 5:30
Chu — Snell 15 pass from H. Harr (try failed), 4:06
Bar — Edwards 5 run (Suon run), 1:58
Chu — Maad 2 pass from H. Harr (try failed), :50
First downs 25 27
Rushes-yards 32-254 74-611
Comp-att-in 19-29-3 3-5-0
Passing yards 273 26
Punts-avg. 0-0 2-22.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Return yards 0 8
Penalties-yds 8-70 8-80
RUSHING — Chugiak: Snell 11-100, H. Harr 11-81, A. Harr 6-43, Maad 3-20, Jones 1-10. Bartlett: Edwards 45-387, Cargill 23-201, Malia-Hughes 3-(-2), Suon 3-25.
PASSING — Chugiak: H. Harr 19-29-2—273. Bartlett: Malia-Hughes 3-5-0—26.
RECEIVING — Chugiak: Snell 11-160, Maad 6-86, Chapple 1-17, Carlos 1-10. Bartlett: Couse 1-25, Suon 1-11, Lauofo 1-0.