Eagle River opened the high school cross country running season by introducing some of its new recruits Friday, getting wins from transfer student Jacob Bradley and freshman Emily Walsh in a season-opening “Battle of the Bridge” dual meet against Chugiak at the Beach Lake Trails.
The Wolves took the top eight spots in the boys race, while Walsh held off a trio of Mustangs and teammate Claire Nelson in the girls’ top five spots.
Reigning Alaska Large Schools Offensive Player of the Year Derryk Snell picked up right were he left off Friday night, scoring a touchdown on his first touch of the season and finding the end zone twice more to lead Chugiak to a 20-6 nonconference high school football win over East at East High.
After forcing East to punt on its first possession, the Mustangs needed just six plays to cover 46 yards on their opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead on Snell’s 12-yard burst to the outside.
Lessons can be learned both on and off the field. On a recent trip to the Kenai Peninsula, the Chugiak Mustangs got a chance to do both.
A scrimmage against the defending Medium Schools division champion Soldotna Stars provided the humbling lesson on the turf, while the bus trip to the Central Peninsula gave the team a chance to learn a bit more about each other.
“I think it was a great experience for our team bonding,” said senior Ian Stover, one of a large group of Chugiak players who have come up through the youth and high school ranks together.
Eagle River football’s new pack leader hopes to bring new snarl to the Wolves’ program.
“What we’re trying to do is change the culture and get a winning mentality,” said Bob Adkins, who took over the program this season after spending two years as an assistant under Matt Turner.
Turner is now coaching special teams at Bartlett, and Adkins has brought in an almost entirely new crop of assistant coaches to help him take his shot at turning around a program that has now had five head coaches but never a winning season since starting varsity play in 2006.
Chugiak isn’t exactly easing its way into the 2017 prep football season.
After scrimmaging 2016 Medium Schools champion Soldotna in an Aug. 5 tune-up, the Mustangs will open their season for real against East — which won the 2016 Large Schools title.
“It’ll definitely be a test,” said Chugiak head coach Roger Spackman.
It’s one Chugiak’s players are ready for. Just two years removed from the Large Schools title game and coming off a Railbelt Conference championship, the Mustangs feel they belong in the conversation as one of the state’s top teams.
Chugiak fell in heartbreaking fashion on a rainy Tuesday night at Mulcahy Stadium, losing to Service 7-6 in the opening round of the Alaska American Legion Baseball State Tournament on a walk-off single in the 11th inning.
Service’s Cooper Bailey-Parsons scored the game-winning run on a one-out single by Jaren Childs off Chugiak reliever Braden Shackelford.