Eagle River wins “Battle of the Bridge” football game for the first time
Just five miles separate Hiland Road and Birchwood Loop, but for more than a decade the gulf between the high school football teams that call those highway exits home has been much greater.
Consider the gap bridged.
Eagle River won its first “Battle of the Bridge” trophy Saturday with a dominant 34-21 nonconference win over Chugiak in front of a huge homecoming crowd at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium in Chugiak.
“We’ve just been working so hard and it feels like it’s finally paying off,” said Eagle River quarterback Ryan Adkins, who threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as the Wolves beat their cross-river rivals for the first time in 11 tries dating back to 2006. Eagle River was awarded a win in the 2011 meeting, a 35-14 Chugiak victory on the field that was eventually ruled a forfeit due to the Mustangs’ use of an ineligible player.
Eagle River players, fans and coaches were jubilant as the final seconds ticked off the clock under a glorious fall sun and the rivalry trophy — featuring a silver football alongside mustang and wolf figurines — was brought onto the field.
“It’s not just for this year,” said Adkins, who was 10-of-17 with two interceptions. “It just means a lot to all of us that we finally got it.”
Making the win more special, he said, was that it came against guys the Wolves grew up playing with at the youth football level.
“Those are all our buddies over there,” he said.
Eagle River (5-1) opened with a statement, capping an 11-play opening drive with a highlight-reel catch by Bryson Rollman, who snagged an Adkins lob with one hand in the end zone for the game’s first score.
The big catch became a theme for the Wolves, who went up 14-0 later in the quarter on a 65-yard bomb from Adkins to Quanard Cox.
“They’re big and long and they go get the ball,” Chugiak coach Ryan Landers said of the Eagle River receiving corps.
The Wolves wasn’t all about the air attack though. They dominated in the trenches en route to 326 rushing yards on 51 carries.
Kobe Sherman did most of the damage on the ground, racking up 178 yards on 18 carries. He also caught a 12-yard touchdown from Adkins for the Wolves’ final score.
“We had a lot of guys making big plays when they needed to,” said second-year Eagle River head coach Bob Adkins.
The Wolves outgained Chugiak 547-313 and got touchdowns from five different players.
Chugiak (1-6) showed some life in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 14-7 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Quentin Wilson that was set up by one of the Wolves’ 18 penalties.
The Wolves struck back quickly with a 52-yard catch-and-run by Mason Piper from Adkins that made it 21-7 going into the fourth. Piper finished with a game-high 107 receiving yards on three receptions.
Each team scored twice in the final quarter, with Wilson picking up a 6-yard touchdown run and Kody Carlson hauling in a 42-yard pass from Wilson late in the game.
Coach Adkins was doused with water after the win, which improved Eagle River to 5-1 heading into its regular-season finale against nonconference South.
He said the win was a long time coming for a program that until now has been mostly known for futility.
“It says a lot about these kids who have gone to Eagle River and put in the work to be successful,” he said.
Though his team was sloppy at times, Adkins said he was proud of the way the Wolves played through the final whistle.
“We played hard and with heart,” he said.
Chugiak can take solace in the fact the loss came in a nonconference game. The Mustangs close out the regular season next weekend at Colony.
“We’ve got to get back to work and take care of next week,” Landers said.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]
WOLVES 34, MUSTANGS 21
Saturday, Sept. 22
Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium (Chugiak, Alaska)
Eagle River 14 0 7 13 — 34
Chugiak 0 0 7 14 — 21
ER - Rollman 3 pass from Adkins (A. Hamilton kick), 6:07
ER- Cox 65 pass from Adkins (A. Hamilton kick), 3:09
Chu - Wilson 2 run (Sitz kick), 7:01
ER- Piper 52 pass from Adkins (A. Hamilton kick), 5:08
ER- Adkins 1 run (pass failed), 10:24
Chu - Wilson 6 run (Sitz kick), 8:31
ER- Sherman 12 pass from Adkins (A. Hamilton kick), 6:02
Chu - Carlson 42 pass from Wilson (Sitz kick), 3:23
Chugiak Eagle River
First downs 16 23
Rushes-yards 34-137 51-326
Comp-att-Int 12-23-2 10-17-2
Passing yards 176 221
Penalties-yards 8-65 18-155
Punts-Avg. 3-37.0 1-50.0
Fumbles-lost 6-1 4-1
Return yards 19 31
RUSHING — Eagle River: Sherman 18-178, Cox 7-65, Baker 6-27, Williams 7-27, Hamilton 1-20, Adkins 12-9; Chugiak: Harr 8-49, Wilson 13-46, Huffer 9-33, Oshesky 3-9, Binniker 1-0.
PASSING — Eagle River: Adkins 10-17-2—221; Chugiak: Wilson 12-23-2—176.
RECEIVING — Eagle River: Sherman 4-47, Piper 3-107, Rollman 2-22, Cox 1-65. Chugiak: Huffer 4-60, Carlson 3-64, Oshesky 2-8, Davis 1-28, Mathieu 1-12, Harr 1-2.