Dimond pulls away in overtime

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 20:00
Mustangs blow lead, fall to 2-3
Chugiak’s Travis Craig hauls down Dimond’s Nathan Stephens during Dimond’s 21-14 win over the Mustangs on Sept. 17 at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium. Chugiak plays West at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23 at Anchorage Football Stadium.

Chugiak’s playoff hopes took a major hit Saturday, Sept. 17 after Dimond rallied from a 14-0 deficit to pull out a 21-14 Cook Inlet Conference win at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium.

“This one hurts,” said Chugiak coach Duncan Shackelford, whose team fell to 2-3 in the CIC and 3-3 overall.

The loss put the Mustangs’ playoff prospects in major jeopardy. Entering their Friday, Sept. 23 game against West, the Mustangs found themselves tied for fifth place in an eight-team league that awards four playoff berths.

“It’s a big loss,” Shackelford said.

If there’s anything positive in Chugiak’s predicament it’s that the Mustangs face two teams ahead of them in the standings — West and East — in the final two weeks of the season. Only 5-0 Service is guaranteed a post season berth, while only 0-5 Eagle River has been eliminated.

Shackelford said he was frustrated because Chugiak appeared to be well on its way to a lopsided victory in the Dimond game.

“It seemed like they got in this lull, and I couldn’t get ‘em back,” he said.

Dimond scored just one offensive touchdown, and the Mustangs dominated the stat sheet, outgaining the Lynx by nearly 200 yards on the ground. Chugiak’s defense was especially solid, allowing just seven first downs while racking up nine tackles for a loss.

But costly mistakes and an inability to come through in key situations spelled the team’s demise. Dimond blocked an extra point, punt and field goal, the latter coming with under 10 seconds to play.

After the game, Shackelford spoke to his players about the importance of finishing what they start.

“I told ‘em that when you get down to that stripe, you’ve got to get it over,” he said. “There’s got to be thise sense of urgency.”

Chugiak looked to be in total control early on, getting a 72-yard touchdown run from sophomore Dylan Timberlake on just its second play from scrimmage. But Craig Lowe’s ensuing extra point was blocked — a harbinger of things to come for the Mustangs.

Dimond fumbled the ball away on its next posession, and Chugiak capitalized with a 5-yard touchdown run by Justin Schneider with 6:43 to go in the first. Schneider’s conversion run was ruled just short, however, giving Chugiak a 12-0 lead.

Chugiak pushed its lead to 14-0 less than two minutes later when Justin Benzel and Wayde Snell tackled Dimond quarterback Ryden Hines in the end zone.

The Mustangs never scored again.

Dimond pulled to 14-7 on a 2-yard keeper by Hines, then tied the game when big Willy Pulu picked up a fumble by Chugiak quarterback Jacob Wenzl and rumbled 38 yards for a score that left both Chugiak and its fans stunned.

Neither team scored in the second half, although the Mustangs did have a chance to win the game at the end of regulation after driving into Dimond territory. But the 6-foot-8 Hines blocked Chase Wilson’s 27-yard field goal try to send the game into extra time.

Dimond running back Nathan Stevens took the wind out of Chugiak’s sails even further when he caught a swing pass from Hines and scampered into the end zone on Dimond’s first play in overtime.

Chugiak’s overtime was less inspired, as the Mustangs could only halve the distance between the 10-yard-line in their four tries from scrimmage.

Shackelford said Chugiak’s inability to deliver a knockout blow to the Lynx was inexcusable.

“We have nobody to blame but ourselves,” he said.

Still, he also said he reminded his team that a lot can change over the course of a couple weeks in high school football.

“We’ve just got to go back to work Monday,” he said. “And see what happens.”

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