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.
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.
Eagle River is getting its only nonconference game of the season out of the way early. The Wolves play at North Pole on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. The well-coached Patriots will serve as a measuring stick for the Wolves, head coach Jason Brewer said.
Chugiak opens its 2013 season with the same opponent as 2012. The Mustangs hope the similarities end there. “We definitely want to see what we can do with that West Valley game,” said Chugiak offensive lineman Ted Carlson. The nonconference tilt is set for Saturday, Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. at Chugiak’s Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Five of the eight Cook Inlet Conference teams will earn berths in this year’s ASAA Alaska First National Bowl Large Schools Football playoffs. The change (four CIC teams got in last year) was made after Juneau-Douglas and North Pole opted to move to the Medium Schools division.