PREP FLAG FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Chugiak, Eagle River ready to run
Last year, Chugiak’s flag football team snuck up on the Cook Inlet Conference to claim the conference championship. This time around, the Mustangs know they’ll have to work even harder for a shot at the title.
“We all have the same goals and we all want to work really hard to get them,” said Carson Head, a senior who helped Chugiak win the 2016 CIC title despite a fifth-place regular season.
Head coach Marilyn Campnell said teamwork was crucial to last year’s run — which culminated in a 12-6 win over Dimond in the October championship game — and her hope is to continue building on that chemistry.
“If you build a team first, everything else will come,” Campnell said.
Chugiak players spend a lot of time off the field together, Head said — which helps when they’re out on the turf. In addition to simply hanging out, the team decorates lockers together, shares team dinners and even participated in last year’s “Boo at the Beach” Halloween event.
“I think we’re really good at talking and communicating,” said Head, one of two returning first-team All-CIC selections for the Mustangs.
Campnell said she has about 45 players out this season, a number of whom are key returners. Atop that list is Chasity Horn, who took the league by storm last year as a freshman phenom and second-team All-CIC selection.
Horn scored both touchdowns in Chugiak’s championship game win and also had an interception. Horn is capable of breaking a big play at any time, and Campnell said she’ll give the speedy sophomore plenty of room to operate again this year.
“Chasity has the natural instinct of when to run and when to pass,” Campnell said.
Also back for the Mustangs are top returners Eva Palmer (who joined Head as a first-team All-CIC performer last year), Leilani Fugere, Briana Panter, Madelyn Madsen and Taylor Rukes. Chugiak’s only key loss was senior Cerina Bush, a first-team All-CIC running back.
Campnell said she’s got a lot of confidence in this year’s squad, but said it will be up to the team to make plays.
“They’ve got to go out and create,” she said.
Chugiak opened its regular season Thursday, Aug. 17 with an 18-0 loss at Bartlett. The Mustangs face Eagle River on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Eagle River.
2017 CHS Varsity: Keara Chaperon, Leilani Fugere, Aliikak Gates, Summer Gillette, Wendy Gillette, Taylor Luellen, Madelyn Madsen, Eva Palmer, Briana Panter, Mariah Parish, Taylor Rukes, Chasity Horn, Goldnu Vue, Malina Nevins.
EAGLE RIVER WOLVES
Like its football team, Eagle River’s flag football squad has a new coach who’s not entirely new to the program.
Former Wolves assistant Dave Richards has taken over the team from Robert Warren, who stepped aside after winning Coach of the Year while leading the Wolves to a sixth-place finish in the CIC.
It won’t be an easy job.
“We graduated 15 seniors,” Richards said during practice on Tuesday as the team practiced at the Wolves Den, where Richards’ squad will host West at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 in the season opener for both teams.
Richards said he’s got about 30 players in the program, but is hopeful those numbers will go up once school starts and kids are in the building looking for something to do after school.
“I’m trying to rebuild it up again,” he said.
Richards’ will have help on the sidelines from Rashard Boston, who is also the school’s head girls varsity basketball coach.
“He knows football really well,” Richards said.
The preseason has been spent mainly getting everyone on the same page.
“Those 15 or so seniors were almost our entire varsity,” he said.
The Wolves lost all three of their first-team All-CIC players (Jessi Scott, Lauryn Green and Kyle Wisdom), but the team does return a number of players who were starters for the JV last year, Richards said. And while many of the team’s stars have departed, Richards said it won’t be wise to sleep on the speedy Wolves.
“Our running game is going to be our strength,” he said.
Wolves senior Camryn Hudson concurred with her head coach when asked how the team will try to win games this season.
“Running,” she said. “Definitely running.”
Teammate Kylie Squires didn’t argue the point.
“We have a lot of fast people,” Squires said.
In addition to having good team speed, both players said they think Eagle River’s flag-pulling and quickness will help them on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think our defense is going to be really good this year,” Squires said.
The players both said “attitude” will determine how far the team can go this season.
“It just depends on how we go out and play our first game,” Squires said.
As for the team’s new head coach, the players said they’re enjoying Richards’ affable personality — even if his jokes aren’t always that funny.
“We just have to laugh along,” Hudson said.