Chugiak's Huffer Stadium site of state playoffs
At its most recent board meeting in February, the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) by unanimous consent approved a proposal to move the state football playoffs from the dilapidated Anchorage Football Stadium to the newly-christened (and renovated) Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium at Chugiak High.
It’s a move whose time has come, said Mustangs head coach Duncan Shackelford.
“It’s time to get to somewhere where I think is one of the nicest high school stadiums in the nation,” Shackelford said of Huffer Stadium. “You can’t beat the scenery.”
This year’s ASAA “First National Bowl” schedule will work like this:
On the weekend of Oct. 7 and 8, first-round games in all three divisions (large, middle and small) will be played on the higher-seeded team’s home field. On Oct. 14, the first large-schools semifinal game will be played at Huffer Stadium. The next day, the Small schools and Medium schools championships will be held at Chugiak, along with the other Large schools semifinal. The Large schools championship game will be held Oct. 22 at Chugiak.
The issue of moving the playoffs came to a head last season, when the AFS locker rooms were condemned by the municipality, forcing teams into portable locker rooms at the stadium.
Shackelford said he has no doubt that Chugiak can host a top-notch event.
“We have the parking, we have the venue to hold a big state competition,” he said.
Over the summer, the stadium also underwent renovations that included new paving around the track and a refurbished concession stand.
As to potential charges by anyone that the change will bring an unfair homefield advantage to the Mustangs, “Shack” isn’t buying it.
“Ask the Dallas Cowboys how that worked out,” he said, referring to the NFL team that hosted the Super Bowl last season but missed out on the playoffs themselves.
Shackelford said the credit for getting the games to Chugiak goes to the school’s administration, the field’s namesake and Rep. Bill Stoltze, who helped secure funding for Chugiak’s $1.35 million field renovation in 2008.
“Kudos to Coach Huff and (Chugiak athletic director) Paul Brauneis and all those guys behind the scenes,” he said.
For his part, Huffer said he’s happy the game will be at Chugiak even if it’s just because the school’s turf is so much better than that in the city.
“It’s an ugly place to play. It used to scare me to play the girls (flag football) down there because they don’t have helmets and it’s hard as a rock,” he said.
Huffer said he would have been happy if the board had decided to move the game to either Chugiak or Dimond, which also has a renovated stadium on campus.
“Either place would have been fine with me,” he said.
Huffer said the playoff games will be a nice boost for the community.
“I don’t think it benefits the school itself … but we’ll probably benefit from it, and it’s just a nice place,” he said.