No looking back for Chugiak
What’s done is done.
After one of the most frustrating, heartbreaking seasons in team history, the Chugiak Mustangs would just as soon put the blinders on when it comes to the 2011 campaign.
“It’s a past thing, it really is,” said head coach Duncan Shackelford.
Chugiak’s 2011 season was marred by an eligibility scandal that drew statewide media attention and ended with a disgraced Chugiak administrator transferred to South and the Mustangs on the outside of the playoff picture after forfeiting six games — including wins over Eagle River, South and Colony.
The Mustangs rebounded from their crushing off-field defeat to win their final two games, a symbolic victory that Shackelford said was the bright spot of an otherwise trying season.
“It was as big of a positive as it could be out of as big of a negative as it was,” Shackelford said of the way his team responded to adversity last season.
Chugiak will be starting fresh in more ways than one this season. The team has a new starting quarterback (junior David Mayhew, who led the JV last season), a new defensive coordinator (Jamie Mayo) and plenty of competition for the feature back role so coveted in the Mustangs’ ground-heavy offensive attack.
Through the first week of practice, Shackelford said he’s seen several players capable of taking over for the role filled last season by Justin Schneider, who ran for more than 900 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
“It’s any one of about 10 guys,” Shackelford said.
Chugiak has a number of players who saw time carrying the ball last season at the varsity level, including junior Dylan Timberlake, the team’s leading returning rusher. Timberlake ran for 216 yards and four touchdowns last season. Senior Dane Prince is also back after finishing third on the team in carries as a junior.
Shackelford said he’s excited about the potential of sophomore Josh Capers, a big, fast back who was used extensively in the Chugiak Stampede scrimmages held on Aug. 4.
The Mustangs also have the ability to stretch the field on the outside, with returning speedsters Tyler Rohde and Deven Ferriss expected to line up at wide receiver. Rohde averaged 31.2 yards per catch last season, while Ferriss averaged 20.3.
“We do have a lot of speed,” Rohde said. “It’s actually exciting.”
Shackelford said he expects to be strong up front on both sides of the ball. But with only a small core of top lineman, he said the Mustangs can’t afford to get injured.
“That’s huge,” he said. “They say you only play with 11, but it’s nice to have your best 11.”
CIC Lineman of the Year Kody Trombley has graduated, so the job of leading the line this season will fall to third-year starter Kenny Pegues, a junior. Pegues is expected to anchor a group that also includes fellow returners Dakota Benzel, tight end Matt Oldenkamp and Charley Pappas. Shackelford said he also expects junior linemen Ted Carlson and Jake Brownlee to make a smooth transition from the junior varsity ranks.
“I’d put our first squad up against just about anybody in the CIC,” Shackelford said.
On defense, the Benzel twins — linebackers Dakota and Justin — will bring their uncanny knack for arriving at the ball simultaneously back to Huffer Stadium.
“When he’s off the field I don’t feel like I’m fully me,” Dakota said. “It’s weird, but when we’re together — no stopping us.”
Rohde, who also plays in the secondary, said that kind of intuition is common on this year’s team, most of whom came up through the ranks together.
“We can almost read each other’s minds on what’s going to happen and how the play’s developing on the offensive and defensive side of the ball,” he said.
Entering his ninth year at Chugiak, Shackelford said he believes that this year’s team has a chance to make people forget about last season’s woes.
“We’re trying to stress daily improvement and I think the kids are making those strides and I like the way our chemistry is this year,” he said. “It’s an excellent group.
Head coach: Duncan Shackelford (9th year)
Last season: 3-5 overall, 3-3 CIC (missed playoffs)
Key Returners: Kenny Pegues, OL/DL, Jr.; Tyler Rohde, WR/DB, Sr.; Deven Ferriss, WR/DB, Sr.; Justin Benzel, LB, Sr.; Dakota Benzel, LB Sr.; Charley Pappas, OL/DL, Jr.; Dylan Timberlake, RB, Jr.; Sam Brownlee, LB, Sr.; Matt Oldenkamp, TE, Sr.; Dane Prince, RB/KR, Sr.
Key newcomers: Jake Brownlee, C, Jr.; Ted Carlson, OL/DL, Jr.; David Mayhew, QB, Jr.; Josh Capers, RB, Soph.
Key losses: Justin Schneider, RB/DB; Kody Trombley, OL/DL, Wayde Snell, LB; Travis Craig, DB; Jake Wenzl, QB; Steven Puterbaugh, OL/DL; Garrett Morrison, DT; Luke Plumb, WR
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727.