Seasons on the line as prep football playoffs get underway
It’s now or never.
Eagle River and Chugiak will play in do-or-die playoff games Saturday when the Mustangs travel to East for a Division I quarterfinal against the Thunderbirds at 2 p.m. and the Wolves head north to the Mat-Su for a 4 p.m. Division II semifinal showdown against Lathrop at Machetanz Field in Palmer.
The Mustangs (1-7) are the No. 4 seed from the Chugach Conference and will face a tall order against 7-1 East, which won the Cook Inlet Conference and defeated Chugiak 47-0 in a nonconference game in August. East hasn’t lost a game to an Alaska school this season and enters the playoffs as the No. 1 Division I team in the final ASBN poll.
Eagle River enters the playoffs off a loss to nonconference South, but the Wolves (5-2) have plenty of reason for optimism that saw the team achieve a number of milestones — first winning season, first win over Chugiak and highest ranking in the polls. The Wolves finished second in the Northern Lights Conference behind Soldotna and ended the season as the second-ranked D-II/III team in the state.
Against No. 4 Lathrop the Wolves will face a team that went 6-2 to win the Railbelt Conference. The teams played three common opponents this season: both blew out Kenai Central and were blown out by Soldotna, while Eagle River beat Kodiak 65-15 at home compared to a 20-12 Lathrop loss to the Bears in Kodiak.