Eagle River football hopes to make history
Eagle River High is hoping to accomplish something this year no other varsity football team has in seven seasons — make the playoffs.
Oh, and beat Chugiak.
Fulfilling the latter will help achieve the former, especially this season. Thanks to North Pole and Juneau-Douglas dropping to the Medium Schools division, five of the eight Cook Inlet Conference teams will make state. That means just three conference wins will likely secure the fifth seed — or at the least put a team in a tiebreaker situation.
Three of the five Railbelt Conference teams — Colony, Wasilla, Palmer, Lathrop, West Valley — will earn the remaining Large Schools postseason berths.
Second-year head coach Jason Brewer is back at the helm of Eagle River’s program. Last season, Brewer guided the Wolves to a 2-6 overall record and a seventh-best 1-6 conference record.
Brewer brought in some familiar faces to round out his coaching staff. Jim Reeves and Travis Duxbury will run the offense while Ryan McMurray and Don Ramey are in charge of defense.
The same coaching staff led Eagle River’s JV program to a 6-2 season three years ago, and Brewer is hoping for a similar outcome this time around.
“We’re trying to keep that success going,” he said.
Thanks to countless hours in the gym, the Wolves enter the season a stronger squad, Brewer said. He said weight lifting sessions averaged 40 to 45 kids.
Brewer credited his team with putting in all the hours in the offseason.
“They really bought into the system,” he said.
Eagle River has speed to complement its strength, Brewer said. He said seven kids on the roster ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds or better.
Getting his speed demons the ball in space will be key, Brewer said.
Seniors Ed Hall and Peter Kott will likely carry the bulk of the offensive load. Hall led the Wolves with 329 rushing yards last season.
Kott, who missed most of last season due to injury, was Eagle River’s fourth leading rusher with 49 yards. Kott attempted just 12 passes, but threw for 118 yards and a touchdown on four completions.
Alani Collins took most of the snaps last year, and the junior is another offensive weapon for the Wolves. Collins’ 248 passing yards accounted for about half of Eagle River’s production through the air.
Receiver and return specialist Isaiah Banks is also back. The junior returned two punts for touchdowns last year.
If Eagle River’s offensive line can gel, Brewer said, the team shouldn’t have a problem getting into the end zone.
“We have the skill positions,” he said. “We just need to mesh as an offensive line.”
Putting in the hours on and off the field will also play a major role in the team’s success, Kott said.
“We just have to work hard,” he said.
With a large number of youngsters, the Wolves’ upperclassmen will be vital if they want to achieve their goal of making playoffs, senior Josh Bogowith said.
“There needs to be leadership,” he said.
Throughout his years on the team, Kott has seen an improvement in Eagle River’s athletes. This year is no exception.
“We have a lot of talent,” he said. “Every year it seems we have better and better kids.”
More talent means a more balanced offense, Banks said.
Predominantly a running team last year, the Wolves have speedy receivers to accompany their run game, Banks said.
“This year, we have a mixture,” he said.
Playing together is crucial for success, Banks said.
“We need to work as a team,” he said.
Entering the season in top physical condition is perhaps more important than anything for the Wolves. As the school with the smallest enrollment out of the eight CIC teams, most of Eagle River’s top athletes will be forced to play both ways.
Fighting through fatigue is essential, especially late in games, senior Collin Metzel said.
“If you get tired, don’t quit,” he said.
Bogowith agreed, saying determination is what sets teams apart.
“It comes down to heart,” he said.
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727.