South established a reason to be motivated for its first football game of the season Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium, and the Wolverines rode that motivation to a 68-6 Cook Inlet Conference win over Eagle River in the season opener for both teams.
"We took it to heart that we weren't ranked on the news and we put it in the locker room and looked at it every day," said South's Dante Williams, who led all rushers with 78 yards. "We came out with heart and we showed it."
Williams is one of several returning South seniors who lost to Service in last season's state championship game, and Service was the top-ranked team in last week's preseason poll by the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network. For Williams, last season's runner-up finish is another source of inspiration.
"We're really gunning for Service this year, to give a little payback," he said.
South got rolling quickly Saturday, scoring less than three minutes in on a 13-yard pass from Zach Lujan to Griffin Toomey. Nicholas Settle added a 7-yard rushing score less than halfway through the opening quarter.
South really kicked it into gear in the second quarter, scoring six touchdowns, two of which came on runs from Williams.
The South defense appeared in top form, applying heavy pressure to Eagle River throughout the game. It was a major contributing factor in Eagle River's 10 fumbles, four of which wound up in South's hands. By the time David Alston recovered the third one and returned it 15 yards for a score late in the second quarter, South led 47-6. A 10-yard touchdown run by Taylor Faagau put the Wolverines up 53-6 just before halftime.
"South came out well prepared," first-year Eagle River coach Jason Brewer said. "South came out ready to play and they took it to us. They beat us in every facet of the game."
Eagle River came into the game full of spirit, Brewer said, pumped up for its first game. Brewer said he wished maybe he could have calmed the Wolves down a little bit before the start, because they may have been a little too excited. The Wolves will bounce back to play another day, Brewer said, but his players were disappointed after the game.
"I think it stings because they spent a lot of time in the weight room this summer," Brewer said. "They worked extra hard and that's all right, because this one's on me. I didn't prepare them well enough."
Eagle River's only highlight turned out to be the longest play of the game. Quarterback Peter Kott launched a beautiful pass down the left sideline and into the arms of a streaking Javonte Dunn for a 66-yard score. It was a play the Wolves had planned to use more often, Brewer said, but South's smothering defense made it difficult.
"They were dominating us on the line of scrimmage and we couldn't have time to do it but only one time," Brewer said. "Their linebackers come hard. They're a very well-coached football team."
South 15 38 10 5 -- 68
Eagle River 0 6 0 0 -- 6
South -- Toomey 13 pass from Lujan, (kick failed) 9:47
South -- Settle 7 run (kick failed) 6:20
South -- Toomey 22 field goal 2:09
South -- Williams 9 run (run failed) 10:59
South -- Autry 10 run (kick blocked) 9:58
Eagle River -- Dunn 66 pass from Kott (kick blocked) 8:57
South -- Page 9 pass from Lujan, (Toomey kick) 6:21
South -- Williams 14 run (kick failed) 2:12
South -- Alston 15 fumble return (Toomey kick) 1:59
South -- Faagau 10 run (kick blocked) :28
South -- Eyob Imlach 42 field goal 5:13
South -- Andrew West 36 run (Imlach kick) :00
South -- Safety 9:11
South -- Toomey 33 FG 2:51
Eagle River South
First downs 3 28
Rushes-yards 26-3 41-348
Passing yards 78 125
Return yards 74 65
Passes 3-8-2 7-13-0
Punts 6-24.3 1-38
Fumbles-lost 10-4 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-20 7-90
Rushing -- Eagle River: Gorski 1-7, Stemper 2-6, Collins 2-4, Madubuko 1-4, Hall 1-0, Kott 8-(-5), Eiler 11-(-13). South: Williams 7-78, Autry 5-66, Faagau 4-42,West 1-36;,Hopp 4-34, Alsworth 3-23, Loewe 5-15, Hoover 1-15, Settle 3-12, Augafa 1-10, Stephen 1-9;,Esplin 2-8, Lujan 3-0.
Passing -- Eagle River: Kott 1-4-1--66; Eiler 2-3-0--12; Collins 0-1-0--0; South: Lujan 7-13-0--125.
Receiving -- Eagle River: Dunn 2-67, Hall 1-11. South: Settle 3-45; Page 3-27; Toomey 2-51.