When the high school football season started four weeks ago, South quarterback Zach Lujan decided not to shave or cut his hair until he threw an interception.
Any hopes he had of growing a full beard vanished Friday night at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium, but South's hopes of going unbeaten this season remained alive with a 41-3 Cook Inlet Conference win over Chugiak.
Lujan was intercepted twice, both times because of tipped passes in the first half. Both times the ball landed in the hands of Chugiak's Tyler Rohde and both times the picks brought an end to South drives that had progressed deep into Chugiak territory, keeping the Mustangs in the game. But both times Chugiak (0-4 overall, 0-3 CIC) failed to convert.
After South took a 7-3 lead on a 38-yard run from Kahlil Autry, the Wolverines were driving again until Rohde returned his first interception 29 yards to set up the Mustangs with first down on their own 39.
South took a 10-3 lead on a 26-yard field goal from Eyob Imlach and was trying to add to it with a drive late in the second quarter when Rohde made his second opportune play near the goal line. Lujan tried to fit a 10-yard pass over the middle, but his receiver couldn't get a grip and the ball popped up into Rohde's hands.
Luckily for Lujan, his pass-throwing skills easily surpass his beard-growing ability. He was able to rebound with some sharp throws to end the first half.
"No one else likes the facial hair, but I kind of like it," Lujan said. "I know it doesn't look too good, but I like it."
With the final drive of the half starting on the Chugiak 31-yard line, Lujan completed consecutive passes of 5, 8 and 12 yards to three different receivers. After a couple of short runs, Lujan capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and put the Wolverines up 17-3 at the half.
South dominated the second half, although it barely managed to invoke the running-clock mercy rule for the fourth straight game, going up by more than 35 points with just more than two minutes remaining.
"The no-huddle offense always tires (opponents) out," Lujan said. "I always say we are one of the best conditioned teams in the state and then we just get behind our bigs and let them do the work. Our O-line is where it's at."
South's offensive line helped the running backs amass 323 rushing yards on 50 carries. Taylor Faagau delivered punishing run after punishing run to lead the Wolverines with 98 yards on 12 carries. Dante Williams, the league's leading rusher coming into Friday, picked up 84 yards on nine carries that included a 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
South's defense held Chugiak to one rushing first down and negative rushing yards. Chugiak did nearly all its offensive damage through the air, getting the bulk of its 120 passing yards on the opening drive.
Chugiak quarterback David Mayhew launched a perfectly timed pass down the right sideline to a streaking Deven Ferriss for a 67-yard play that put the Mustangs on South's 10. The drive went backward from there, however, and the Mustangs settled for a 24-yard field goal from Chase Wilson.
Lujan said the big play brought back bad memories from last season, when Ferriss returned a fourth-quarter interception 97 yards to help the Mustangs beat South 21-18 in the CIC opener, a win Chugiak later had to forfeit for using an ineligible player.
South had beaten its previous three opponents by a combined score of 159-6, but Chugiak managed to stay within striking distance through three quarters. The Mustangs came out with a totally different game plan than South expected, Lujan said.
"Nothing that we saw on film was what they came out with," Lujan said. "It's tough to come out here on someone else's actual home field. Chugiak always comes out tough."
Chugiak 3 0 0 0 -- 3
South 7 10 0 24 -- 41
Chugiak -- Chase Wilson 24 FG, 7:04
South -- Kahlil Autry 38 run (Eyob Imlach kick), 4:41
South -- Imlach 26 FG, 8:13
South -- Lujan 2 run (Imlach kick), :22
South -- Brown 8 pass from Lujan, (Imlach kick), 10:19
South -- Imlach 28 field goal, 8:40
South -- Williams 32 run, (Imlach kick), 7:28.
South -- Hudson 42 fumble return (Imlach kick), 2:05
First downs 22 4
Rushes-yards 50-323 20- (-24)
Passing yards 144 120
Return yards 151 102
Passes 13-23-2 6-22-4
Punts 3-49.3 8-33.4
Fumbles-lost 2-1 8-3
Penalties-yards 13-100 6-35
Rushing -- South: Faagau 12-98; Williams 9-84; Autry 3-66; Hoover 4-31; Hopp 5-25; Esplin 2-14; Taja 1-4; Alsworth 1-4; Settle 5-2; West 2-(-2); Lujan 6-(-3). Chugiak: Forbush 2-9; Timberlake 4-3; Carnahan 2-2; Benzel 4-0; Temple 3-(-16); Mayhew 4-(-23); Capers 1-1.
Passing -- South: Lujan 13-23-2--144. Chugiak: Mayhew 4-11-1--102; Temple 2-11-3--18.
Receiving -- South: Toomey 6-78; Brown 3-23; Silsby 2-10; Williams 1-21; Page 1-12. Chugiak: Oldenkamp 3-38; Ferriss 1-67; Timberlake 1-12; Rohde 1-3.