Eagle River High is hoping to accomplish something this year no other varsity football team has in seven seasons — make the playoffs. Oh, and beat Chugiak. Fulfilling the latter will help achieve the former, especially this season. Thanks to North Pole and Juneau-Douglas dropping to the Medium Schools division, five of the eight Cook Inlet Conference teams will make state. That means just three conference wins will likely secure the fifth seed — or at the least put a team in a tiebreaker situation.
In an eight-game season, no team can overlook any opponent. But Chugiak and Eagle River are already eyeing Week 6. “We circled that one on the schedule,” Wolves’ head coach Jason Brewer said. That’s when the crosstown rivals meet at ERHS on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. Chugiak owns a 6-1 record in their seven meetings, with the Wolves’ lone win coming via forfeit two years ago.
By next year, Eagle River High is hoping its stadium will be complete — for football anyway. The school plans to use a $1.4 million grant from the Alaska Legislature to add grandstand seating for 1,500 fans, a press box, lighting, a PA system, fencing around the field and relocate the existing concession stand. Last year, Eagle River used a $130,000 grant from the Legislature to add bleacher seating for about 400.
Duncan Shackelford thinks 20 years is just right. “It’s not like I’m hanging up the whistle forever, I just don’t want to be a head coach forever,” said Shackelford, 53, during an interveiw between scrimmages at last week’s Chugiak Stampede.
Last year, Jason Brewer brought a new team motto, “brotherhood,” to Eagle River High’s football program. One way he helped strengthen that bond was by holding a preseason sleepaway camp on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. The second-year head varsity head coach held the five-day camp again this year — and participation nearly doubled in size. Fifty-four kids were on base the first day of camp Monday, July 29, up from 28 last year.
Chugiak Post 33 dropped its only two games at the American Legion Northwest Region Tournament in Oregon. On Aug. 8, the Mustangs dropped an 8-1 decision to tournament hoset Eugene, Ore. Chugiak’s Deven Ferriss scored the team’s lone run when he walked, stole second and third and was singled home by Zach Brueggemann.
What makes standout Chugiak High athletes? Their fathers, apparently. A four-year varsity soccer player, 1985 graduate Ed Blahous Jr. was inducted into the Alaska High School Hall of Fame on Aug. 4, joining his father, Ed Blahous Sr., who was inducted as a soccer coach last year.
Since the state football playoffs were expanded to eight teams in 1993, Chugiak has never missed postseason play in three consecutive seasons. To avoid earning that dubious distinction this year, the Mustangs know they need to improve in all areas of the game.
Alex Hess imagined a storybook ending for the Chugiak Mustangs, then went out and authored a fairytale finish in the championship game of the 2013 Alaska American Legion Baseball Tournament Thursday, Aug. 1 at Mulcahy Stadium.
A winning season isn’t always defined by standings, but by spirit. That’s the message Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks coaches and players delivered following the last-place Alaska Baseball League team’s final game of the season.