Eagle River, Chugiak at lopsided ends in non-district openers
Wolves lose by 47 points and Mustangs win by 50
The Eagle River Wolves took on the Soldotna Stars on Aug. 16 for their first home, non-district game. The Wolves, a young team that coach Matt Turner calls “a work in progress,” played hard with few penalties but still suffered a searing 53-6 loss. “They played all four quarters at 100 percent,” Turner said.
The Chugiak Mustangs played the role of the dominant guest while the Eagle River Wolves were relegated to the role of accommodating host, albeit not on their home field, in the season-opener for both varsity squads.
Chugiak defeated host Kodiak, 50-0, Saturday, with Eagle River falling 53-6 to the powerful Soldotna Stars in action at Chugiak High.
Wolves coach Matt Turner said the team is a work in progress.
“We’re trying to stay positive. We’re giving everyone an opportunity,” he said while reflecting on the game on Sunday.
Not that numbers are that plentiful.
“We suited up eight seniors, five juniors, 11 sophomores and eight freshmen – and some of the seniors and juniors had never played before,” Turner added.
All but one player saw play on the field, he confided.
Turner had nothing but praise for Soldota and his team’s early-season effort against an exceptional team.
The coach said that player’s parents also commended the young Wolves squad.
“There was no lack or loss of intensity. They played all four quarters at 100 percent,” Turner said.
With only four penalties, the team played quite well for the first game, hinted the coach. The Wolves did turn the ball over three times, however, twice by fumble and once on an interception on a fake punt.
Junior quarterback Michael Thompson and freshman Thad Heagy combined for 10-of-18 pass completions with 6’5” tight end Kody Keith literally their biggest target, accounting for 44 yards on four receptions.
Turner said the young Wolves lineup gave away a lot of strength and weight on the line.
“They outweighed us by a ton – perhaps a ton and a half,” said the coach.
Eagle River’s lone touchdown came midway in the first quarter on an option right with Thompson pitching the ball to back Leroy Banks, who broke one tackle, then scampered up the right sideline for 58 yards, bringing the margin to 14-6.
Soldotna then scored six unanswered touchdowns by halftime, before pulling their starters in the second half.
The officials issued a running clock in the fourth quarter.
Chugiak High’s game was vaguely similar, except for the Mustangs commanding play over the young hosts, Kodiak.
Chugiak was quickly up, 22-0 at the end of the first quarter, 29-0 by halftime.
“We were starting to pull our starters in the first quarter,” he said.
Senior Vander Lekites had a particularly good day, with three touchdowns, two as a halfback, one following a 100-yard interception and runback from his safety position.
Junior QB Ben Stewart likewise fared well, accounting for four touchdowns, including three passes – two to freshman receiver Derryk Snell, along with a rushing TD.
Spackman said the program took 45 athletes on the trip, with all of them playing.
“We wanted to rotate all the kids in to see them in game situations,” he said.
Chugiak dominated the line.
“We did have a big size advantage. We handled them pretty well on the line,” Spackman said.
Merrick Johnson and Noah Harris also had exceptional games in the heart of the Mustang defense, he noted
The coach said the team’s option offense worked well.
“We ended up not passing as much as we would have wanted,” he said, not wanting it to appear that they were running up the score.
“They have a good young team. They just need a little time to develop,” said Spackman of the Kodiak Bear squad.
The Chugiak coach said the team represented their school and community well on the trip.
Both local teams have tall orders in front of them, facing Cook Inlet Conference opponents, with Eagle River hosting Service, at Bartlett, and Chugiak hosting South, this Saturday.