Head north, young Mustangs

Chugiak faces Fairbanks foe in Week 1


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Chugiak’s Sam Brownlee makes a catch during a preseason practice at Chugiak High. Brownlee and his Mustang teammates will travel to Fairbanks for the 2012 season opener against nononference foe West Valley on Saturday, Aug. 11. The Wolfpack finished tied for first place in the Railbelt Conference last season before losing in the opening round of the state playoffs to South.

MATT TUNSETH

Although a trip to the Interior might seem like something better left to tourists this time of year, Chugiak head coach Duncan Shackelford said he prefers to look at the bright side of the team’s Week 1 road trip to non-conference foe West Valley.

“It’s nice because we have a chance to travel to Fairbanks and work on our team bonding,” he said of the team’s Golden Heart City swing.

The two teams face off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. Chugiak owns a 3-0 all-time record against the Wolfpack, with their last meeting a 42-0 rout in 2004.

West Valley went 6-3 last season and finished in a first-place tie atop the Railbelt Conference. But the Wolfpack lost the tiebreaker, then lost 38-0 to eventual state runner-up South in the opening round of the state playoffs in Anchorage.

The Wolfpack will be starting over under a new head coach after Daniel Esparza returned to Anchorage to take over at his alma mater, Bartlett. James Patterson will replace Esparza, and Shackelford said he’s already been in contact with the Texas transplant.

“He’s kind of a triple veer [offense] guy like myself,” Shackelford said.

Shackelford said he doesn’t know a whole lot about West Valley’s personnel, but he’s expecting a tough football game out of a team that reached the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

“I know they’ve got some really good athletes,” he said.

As with any early-season game, Chugiak expects to be a couple players short in the opener. Shackelford said he’ll be down at least one injured lineman, and several of the team’s American Legion players were limited in practice because of the baseball team’s run into that sport’s post season.

Another advantage of playing West Valley in Week 1, Shackelford said, is that it gives his team one game of breathing room before diving into the seven-game Cook Inlet Conference schedule — which begins Aug. 25 at Anchorage Football Stadium against West.

Primarily, though, he said the coaching staff is looking at the trip as a chance to learn where his team is and what it needs to improve on.

And the biggest lesson they’ll learn?

“Learning to live with each other for two or three days,” he said. “And learning to live with me for two or three days, too.”

Visit www.alaskastar.com following the game for a recap of the action.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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