Mustangs chomping at the bit for start of 2019 football season
Nothing went right last year for the Chugiak Mustangs. This year the team is hoping it can do no wrong.
“Our energy has been awesome,” said second-year head coach Ryan Landers after a practice last week at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium. “Kids are buying into it, kids are flying around the field, they’re having fun out there and competing every day.”
That wasn’t always the case last season, a fumbling affair that saw the Mustangs go 1-8 just one season after reaching the state Division I semifinals. From inopportune turnovers to a coaching mistake that forced the team to forfeit its only other win, Chugiak did pretty much everything it could to hamstring itself.
“Last year as a head coach if it could have gone wrong it probably did,” Landers said.
But things started to turn around in the team’s first-round playoff game, a 49-21 loss to eventual state champion East that saw the team trailing by just two scores in the fourth quarter. That loss proved to Chugiak’s returning players that they belonged on the field with anyone, Landers said.
“The big thing this year for us was we didn’t necessarily have to tell the kids ‘Hey, this is how we need to play,’ ” he said.
Chugiak has about 65 kids in the program, Landers said. The Mustangs lost just 11 seniors, including second-team all-state lineman Kevin Marshall. But the varsity will return many of its key players, including 2018 first-team all-state linebacker Jacob Oshesky and second-team linebackers Christian Beesing and Tyler Huffer. Oshesky and Huffer are seniors, while Beesing is part of a large, talented junior class that saw nine players get varsity experience last season.
“The bulk of our varsity is going to be juniors,” he said.
Linebacker and offensive backfield should be strengths for Chugiak, which also returns senior linebacker/running back Austin Harr, junior defensive back/wideout Logan Mathieu and junior linebacker/running back Kody Carlson. Harr and Mathieu are speedsters who teamed up to help Chugiak’s track team win a state title in the 4X100 meter relay at the state track and field meet in May, while Huffer is a bruiser who was often Chugiak’s short-yardage option last year.
The Mustangs also return senior quarterback Quentin Wilson, who will guide the team’s triple option attack, and junior offensive lineman Collin Caldwell. Wilson threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in the East loss, while Caldwell has started since his freshman year.
Many of the team’s top players started on offense and defense last season — something that’s likely going to be the case this year as well.
“None of those guys got off the field, and it’s going to be similar to last year,” he said.
Landers said the team’s returning players pushed strong participation numbers in the squad’s off-season lifting program.
“They were the ones working out in the winter time,” he said.
Chugiak plays three of its games against Division II opponents, including a season-ending clash against Eagle River at the Wolves’ Den in the annual “Battle of the Bridge” game. The team’s crucial stretch of games comes between Aug. 30 and Sept. 20, when they’ll play all four conference games in consecutive weeks. The Mustangs conclude the season with a pair of nonconference rivalry games at South and Eagle River.
The Mustangs open against Division II opponent Palmer at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, at Huffer Stadium, and Landers said there’s no doubt the team is anxious to erase the memory of last season.
“None of us liked that taste, that’s for sure,” said Landers, a CHS grad who was part of Chugiak’s last state championship team in 1996.
In order for Chugiak to return to the top of Alaska football, Landers said the team will need to build on the positive momentum it gained in its final loss of a brutal campaign. In early season practices, he said he’s been seeing just that.
Chugach Conference (Division I)
Head coach: Ryan Landers (2nd year)
2018 record: 1-8 (lost in first round of D1 playoffs)
Roster: Alex Brown, Adrian Cox, Matthew DeRocchi, Evan Edge, Alexander Henderson, Cade Kohler, Taisto Mantyla, Brodyn Mariscal, Brock Miller, Reed Nisonger, Johnny Park, Ozzy Rivera, Abram Schuerger, Rotuma Tonu, Lyric Trout, Joshua Bailey, Ian Burton, Jesse Dykstra, Andrew Hays, Anthony Inguagiato, Jacob Isaacson, Keegan Kahler, Joseph Knopke, Gavin Melancon, Treven Monegan, Chance Newell, Trevor Pomeroy, Harvey Pullen, John Rajek, Hayden Schropp, Colter Thomas, Zade Vakalis, Steven Alvarez, Christian Beesing, Dallin Bell, Collin Caldwell, Kody Carlson, Kolton Carlson, Logan Dennis, Sebastian Diaz, Tanner Ebersole, Anders Fairbanks, Ryan Flodin, Colt Foglesong, Tobias Goodson, Levi Goodwin, Austin Harr, Oliver Hays, Cameron Heaston, Tyler Huffer, Colton Johnson, Grant Jones, James Kaae, Kohlter Mariscal, Logan Mathieu, Felton Mills, Brandon O’Fihelly, Jacob Oshesky, Samual Rand, Jared Richards, Wyatt Rohde, Joshua Rolston, Quentin Wilson
Friday, Aug. 16
Palmer at Chugiak, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 23
Chugiak at Kodiak, 6 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 30
Chugiak at Bartlett, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 7
Colony at Chugiak, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14
Chugiak at Wasilla, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20
Juneau-Douglas at Chugiak (Homecoming), 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27
Chugiak at South, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5
Chugiak at Eagle River, 2 p.m.