'Shack' reacts to game's bizarre twist
Chugiak High football players once again found themselves in the middle of controversy due to use of an ineligible player.
Only this time it was the opposing team at fault — and it was intentional.
During the Tanoa Bowl Classic — which pits all-star teams from Alaska, Utah, Oregon and Washington state against one another in Auburn, Wash. — Team Oregon’s use of an unregistered player resulted in a forfeit win for Alaska.
According to a statement issued Jan. 1 on the Tanoa Bowl website (tanoabowl.com), Oregon head coach Taylor Barton allowed the unregistered player to participate in the second half using a registered player’s jersey.
Following the game, Tanoa Bowl director Simi Strickland spoke with Oregon players as well as the unregistered player and confirmed the violation. Though the scoreboard was in favor of Oregon, officials awarded Alaska the win for the infraction.
Tanoa Bowl put all the blame on Barton.
“The head coach of Team Oregon and his coaching staff are solely responsible for the decision to play an unregistered player,” the statement reads.
Mustangs’ head coach Duncan Shackelford agreed, calling Barton’s integrity and ethics into question.
“Not only did he throw a black eye in the Tanoa Bowl … but he put that kid in danger,” Shackelford said, as the unregistered player did not have a medical waiver among other required paperwork. “I’ve got some real big problems with that.”
This is the first time in the event’s three years that something like this has happened.
“We have never experienced this type of behavior from any of the coaches who have participated in our event,” according to the statement. “We will not tolerate this type of activity and those who participate in such decisions and choose not to abide by the Tanoa Bowl rules will be banned from this event.”
Barton’s own team also disapproved of his actions.
“I had two Oregon players apologize to me after the game,” Shackelford said.
According to officials, Barton knew letting the ineligible player suit up was prohibited.
On game day Dec. 29, 2012, Barton attempted to register the player, who arrived in Auburn, Wash., that day. According to the statement, officials told Barton that the registration deadline had passed.
The player’s parent received the same response when making a plea to have his son added to the roster.
“We enforced the registration deadline not once but twice on game day regarding Team Oregon’s roster,” the statement said.
Spotting the ineligible player wasn’t difficult.
At 6-foot-5, the unregistered player took the jersey of a 5-foo-10 receiver, the Tanoa Bowl said. He also caught a touchdown pass to give Oregon the lead.
Alaska’s coaches sensed something was amiss, Shackelford said. Watching the game film confirmed their suspicions, he said.
“We started calling it Tanoagate,” he said.
Shackelford said Barton’s selfish actions sullied the event, which is meant to give high-schoolers a chance to showcase their talents in front of collegiate scouts.
“We’re not trying to promote coaches, we’re trying to promote kids,” he said.
Eight local players participated this year, including Chugiak’s Justin Benzel, Dakota Benzel, Roger Jorgensen, Matt Oldenkamp, Tyler Rohde and Kenny Pegues; and Eagle River’s Jeavonte Dunn and Jachi Madubuko.
Rohde returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Jorgensen added a field goal, Shackelford said.
“All our kids played hard,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Chugiak football has been involved in an incident regarding eligibility. Two seasons ago, the Mustangs were forced to forfeit three wins for use of an ineligible player.
That time, a Chugiak staff member was to blame for the error.
The Tanoa Bowl was a different story.
Unfortunately, the kids suffered from Barton’s actions, Shackelford said, but he wants to move on and ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.
Though disappointing, a lesson can be learned from the Tanoa Bowl incident, Shackelford said.
“Whether you win or lose, it sometimes really is how you play the game,” he said.