Mustangs withstand Wolves
The largest wind gust on a stormy Saturday, Sept. 15 didn’t come courtesy of Mother Nature, but from the hundreds of Chugiak football fans who breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief after their team held on for a heart-stopping 13-7 win over Eagle River at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium.
Mustangs defensive end Matt Oldenkamp hauled down Wolves quarterback Alani Collins deep inside Chugiak territory as time expired to dash the hopes of an Eagle River team desperate to finish on the winning side of the scoreboard for the first time against their arch rivals.
“We let one slip away,” said Eagle River senior Jachi Madubuko, who led all players with 65 yards rushing.
Two plays before Oldenkamp’s game-ending sack, the Wolves pulled off what nearly became the biggest play in school history. Trailing 13-7 with under a minute left, Wolves quarterback Parker Eiler heaved a Hail Mary in the direction of tight end Corbin Duxbury. Chugiak’s Tyler Rohde leaped over everyone to knock the ball away, but instead launched it skyward with his helmet. Eagle River’s Josh Oberlander came down with the pass and was tackled by Justin Benzel at the Chugiak 7-yard-line with 34 seconds to go.
Eagle River’s next play was a run to Madubuko, who was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. With precious seconds ticking off the clock, Wolves coach Jason Brewer said he wanted Collins to spike the ball. Instead, the sophomore snapped the ball and tried to sprint around the left end — where he found Oldenkamp waiting.
“All week we’ve been talking about that naked boot they run, and Matt Oldenkamp squatted and put himself in the right position to make the play,” said Chugiak coach Duncan Shackelford.
Chugiak improved to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in the Cook Inlet Conference. Eagle River dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-5 in the CIC.
“It’s just nice to get one in the win column,” Shackelford said.
Early on, it appeared Chugiak — which is now 6-1 against Eagle River (last year’s CHS victory was later forfeited due to an ineligible player) — would again dominate, taking a 13-0 lead on a 6-yard Dane Prince run in the first quarter and a pair of Chase Wilson field goals in the final 2:44 of the first half. Chugiak outgained Eagle River 117-25 in total yards in the half and had a 10-1 advantage in first downs.
But the Wolves stormed back in the second half, eventually outgaining the Mustangs 247-162 in total offense. The Wolves did so despite getting limited production from injured starting quarterback Peter Kott (toe) and running back Ed Hall, who hurt his ankle and was held to just four carries.
Eagle River’s tough new attitude showed down the stretch, Madubuko said.
“That was the new Eagle River that second half,” Madubuko said.
Eagle River’s backup quarterbacks — Collins and Eiler — racked up 161 passing yards to minus-7 for Chugiak, which saw two of its three completions go for negative yards.
The Wolves cut the lead to 13-7 heading into the fourth quarter on a 21-yard pass from Collins to Corbin Duxbury, who caught three passes for 51 yards.
Although the six point spread was the closest Eagle River has come to earning an on-field victory over CHS, Madubuko said the Wolves still don’t feel they’ve earned the right to call the game a rivalry.
“It’s not really a rivalry until we get a win against them,” he said.
As the Mustangs celebrated on the other side of the field, however, it was clear Chugiak now takes the Wolves plenty serious.
“This is the game we feel we must win every year,” Prince said.
Chugiak next faces Bartlett on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. at Anchorage Football Stadium. That same day, Eagle River takes on East at 2 p.m. at Dimond.