Mustangs honored with sportsmanship award

Football team's actions in wake of scandal earn recognition from Hall of Fame


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Star file photo/Matt Tunseth

The 2011 Chugiak High football team will go down in history.

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame selected the Mustangs for the first-ever Trajan Langdon Award for “displaying sportsmanship and integrity” after their season was cut short due to use of an ineligible player that forced the team to forfeit three wins and miss the state playoffs.

Five Hall of Fame board members held a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 17 in Anchorage to announce the winners of four new awards. The others included a female Pride of Alaska Award (University of Alaska Anchorage basketball team) for excellence in competition; the male Pride of Alaska Award (Alaska Aces); and the Joe Floyd Award (Steven Nerland and Don Winchester) for significant and lasting contribution to Alaska through sports.

Awards will be presented to the recipients Feb. 28 at Anchorage Museum at 7 p.m.

Head coach Duncan Shackelford and the rest of the team handled the unfortunate situation exceptionally well, board member Rick Mystrom said.

Former Chugiak activities principal Kevin Theonnes informed principal Sam Spinella on Sept. 21, 2011 that senior kicker Craig Lowe was ineligible. Because Lowe is homeschooled through the Galena-based IDEA (Interior Distance Education of Alaska) program, he is not eligible to play in the Anchorage School District. After Lowe’s eligibility status was uncovered, ASAA executive director Gary Matthews ruled Chugiak — then 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the Cook Inlet Conference — must forfeit any games in which the kicker played. He had played in all six up until that point.

ASD and Spinella said Lowe’s paperwork wasn’t handled properly during preseason checks. Both blamed the situation on an “administrative mistake.” Theonnes was later reassigned to South High because of his role in the incident.

Despite an appeal by Spinella on behalf of the football team and support from the district, ASAA’s board of directors voted Oct. 3, 2011 to uphold Matthews’ decision.

After the ruling, Chugiak “still showed professionalism and sportsmanship in their conduct,” Mystrom said.

“They showed maturity, respect and class as they made their case,” according to a press release.   

Chugiak won its final two games, and had the board ruled in their favor, the Mustangs would have been playoff bound with an overall record of 5-3 and 4-3 in the CIC.

Shackelford and the rest of the Mustangs embraced Lowe in the wake of the scandal, Mystrom said, and let him know he was still part of the team.

“The team embraced the player and let him know nobody blamed him,” according to a press release. “They assured him that they wanted him to be on the sidelines for the rest of their games.”

The eight Alaska Sports Hall of Fame board members selected each winner, Mystrom said. The board plans to give out the awards annually, he said.

Mystrom said the new awards are a way to recognize athletic greatness around the state.

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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