Eagle River football looks to build on newfound success
Last year’s version of the Eagle River football team wasn’t the same old Wolves. This year’s won’t be, either.
Long a doormat of Alaska football, Eagle River had its best season in program history in 2018, going 7-3 overall and reaching the Division II state championship game. The Wolves set numerous team records and defeated crosstown rival Chugiak for the first time.
But gone are many of last year’s stars, including the team’s all-state quarterback, Division II Coach of the Year Bob Adkins and — hopefully — any memories from the team’s forgettable past.
“Bob did a very good job of building the program,” said first-year head coach Brad Myers, who coached the junior varsity last season. “He was a great transition guy to get us from where we were losing 70 to nothing to going to the state championship game.”
Myers has been with the program for five years and has been coaching football since he graduated high school in Alabama more than two decades ago. Now Eagle River’s sixth head coach, the former local Pop Warner commissioner and longtime football coach, said the transition has been relatively easy.
“I’m used to running a program,” he said.
Myers kept many of the coaches from last season (he invited all of them back), and brought in a few new ones. His role as head coach, he said, is to manage the program by helping his deputies directly work with players.
“I coach the coaches more than I coach the kids,” he said.
Things will be much different on the field for the Wolves, who are implementing a new pistol wing-t offense this season. Myers said that newness will be tempered by the fact the squad had excellent off-season buy-in, with more than 30 players attending the All-Alaska football camp over the summer.
“That’s more than we ever have in the past,” he said.
Eagle River graduated 16 seniors, including first-team all-state selections Ryan Adkins (QB/DB) and Mason Piper (WR), along with second-team all-state picks Quanard Cox (WR), Matthew Bellman (center) and Michael Caywood (DL).
Myers said only a handful of starters are back from last season, with the biggest alpha Wolf being senior Orazio Ramos, a mainstay of the offensive line and linebacking corps who was named second-team all-state offensive lineman and middle linebacker last season. A big and versatile athlete (he also plays baseball), the 6-foot-2, nearly 300-pound Ramos has started on offense and defense since his sophomore year. The Wolves also return second-team all-state linebacker Tim Pennington and Andrew Hamilton, one of the team’s primary ball carriers over the past two seasons.
With so many new faces in new places this season, Myers said the coaches’ main job in the preseason will be figuring out which players can best help the team — and where.
“Probably 80 percent of what we’re doing right now is trying to get our fits right,” he said.
Eagle River opens its season against nonconference Lathrop on Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. at the Wolves’ Den. The team’s crucial stretch starts in late September, when it will play all three Northern Lights Conference games in succession before a season-ending clash with Chugiak.
With Eagle River now seen as one of the big dogs in Division II football, Myers said he’s not worried about expectations. Instead, he said his focus will be on getting the most out of every coach and player in the program. If that happens, there could very well be more of the same from a team that suddenly finds itself among the favorites in a conference that includes perennial powers Soldotna and Kenai Central.
“My philosophy is not necessarily win, it’s to get everybody to play the best they can play,” he said. “Winning and losing will take care of itself.”
EAGLE RIVER WOLVES
Northern Lights Conference (Division II)
Head coach: Brad Myers (1st year)
2018: 7-3 (lost in DI championship game)
Roster — Nolan Chavez, Justin Davis, Andrew Hamilton, Xzayvier Kelly, Jeffrey Malone, Tim Pennington, Orazio Ramos, MJ Rupe, Ben Staples, Sam Thompson, Josh Tripp, Marcus Andrews, Mason Baker, Luke Baltz, Mickey Bundu, LaDavien Simon, Elliott Wilson, Colton Little Dog, LaJuan Ambler, Caleb Brantley, Erin Dobbins, RJ Flagg, Sean Gentile, Carlos Gibbs-Mason, Jaedyn Kelly, Pierce Mcmanus, Braden Settle, Taylor Whitlock, Devin Yeagley, Jacob Adams, Kaden Blevins, Gage Delozier, Jalen Frederick, Kierin Frick, Nathaniel Guaderian, Andrew Johnson, Joseph Knopke, Mitchell Legenza, Auston Little Dog, Noah Lower, Aiden Lower, Ryan Porter, Cashiez Reaves, Jacob Skelton, Caleb Bennett, Joshua Collins, Kyle Hamon, Seth Hatton, Killian Johannes, Wyatt Mountcastle, Josiah Samaniego, Jayden Sealock, Wesley Settle, Kaleb Sherman, Micheal Tucker, Tim Vertreez
Saturday, Aug. 17
Lathrop at Eagle River, 3 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 23
Eagle River at Houston, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31
North Pole at Eagle River, 2 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 6
Eagle River at West Valley, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 13
Eagle River at Kodiak, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 21
Kenai Central at Eagle River, 2 p.m. (homecoming)
Saturday, Sept. 28
Eagle River at Soldotna, 2 p.m.