A lifelong Mustang, Landers becomes first CHS grad to coach football team

Thursday, August 23, 2018 - 11:25
  • Chugiak head coach Ryan Landers directs traffic during a scrimmage on Aug. 5 against Soldotna at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium in Chugiak. A 1998 Chugiak grad, Landers was named the team’s seventh head coach this spring. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Chugiak players listen to head coach Ryan Landers following a scrimmage Aug. 5 against Soldotna in Chugiak. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Chugiak head coach Ryan Landers stood in the rain at midfield on the team’s first day of football practice.

“Well, it’s not the first day …” Landers said.

He meant he’s been preparing for the 2018 season since getting the job this spring, but Landers could have been going much further back.

In fact, Landers’s first practice as a Mustang came nearly two decades ago when he strapped on the pads as a freshman in 1994.

“This is where I was born and raised, and I bleed black and blue,” he said.

Landers was on Chugiak’s last state championship team in 1996, and he’s spent his entire coaching career — he’s in his 14th season — as a CHS assistant, first under Duncan Shackelford and then under Roger Spackman. A 1998 Chugiak grad, the former Division II Chadron State lineman was named head coach after Spackman decided to step aside after leading the team to a 9-1 record and winning the Railbelt Conference Coach of the Year award. Spackman is still teaching at Chugiak and stayed on as an assistant coach — something Landers said has been invaluable to his transition.

Landers will have no shortage of people giving him advice this season. In fact, at a recent Chugiak scrimmage, four of the team’s seven head coaches were in attendance: Landers, Spackman, Tom Huffer Sr. and Shackelford, who now coaches at East — Chugiak’s Week 1 opponent.

“It hasn’t changed a bit, Old Man Huffer has been up here every day, just like when Shack was the coach, just like when Spackman was the coach,” said Landers, who played under Bruce Shearer.

Landers said he’s been fortunate to learn from so many members of the CHS coaching fraternity.

“Those were two good guys to learn from, I learned a lot from both those guys,” he said.

Most of last year’s coaching staff is the same as last year, meaning the transition should be relatively seamless. The biggest adjustment, Landers said, has been taking on the increased workload of a head coach.

“The football’s the same, it’s everything behind closed doors that people don’t see — dealing with parents, the administration, emails, communication,” he said.

But although it’s more work, the Gruening Middle School physical education teacher said there’s no place he’d rather be than coaching his alma mater.

“As long as the administration wants me, I’ll stick around,” he said. “I’m in it to win it.”

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