Anchorage — West found the perfect cure for an ailing passing game Saturday and it came in the form of a Mack Truck named Lui Faamasino.
Faamasino seemingly broke tackles with every step on his way to three touchdowns and 153 yards on 19 carries. The Eagles rode a power running game to a 35-29 Cook Inlet Conference victory at Anchorage Football Stadium, their first win of the season.
"I think some of us were a little shocked," said Eagle River quarterback Peter Kott. "Lui and No. 5, they looked really good out there. We kinda underestimated them."
No. 5 was West's Jake Faualo, who added 61 yards to West's rushing total of 214 and scored a touchdown.
Faualo proved elusive and powerful, but nobody in their right mind would have purposely tried to tackle Faamasino, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior.
"I have fun running the rock," Faamasino said. "I just follow my blocks and, if someone is in my way, I just lower my shoulder and keep my feet pumping."
In a sloppy game in which the teams combined for nine fumbles and 169 yards in penalties, the outcome was in doubt until the fourth quarter.
Eagle River (1-2, 1-1 CIC) pulled within six points when Ed Hall rushed for his second touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with 5:18 to play. A two-point conversion pass from Alani Collins to Collin Metzel cut West's advantage to 29-23.
West's ensuing drive started on its own 41 and included six plays, all runs. Two of them were hard charges up the middle from Faamasino, a 28-yarder that moved the Eagles to the Eagle River 30 and an 11-yard scoring blast that stretched the lead to 35-23 with 2:16 to play.
Eagle River only need 31 seconds to cut the lead back to six points, thanks to a 57-yard pass from Kott to Metzel and an 8-yard touchdown run from Hall, who finished with 85 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The Wolves attempted an onside kick, but West recovered it and ran out the clock.
"It hurts anytime you have a close game and you put a big effort into it and it comes down to the last minute," Kott said. "You think, 'What else could you have done?' Just a few tweaks here or there and we could have had a victory."
Kott, who rushed for four touchdowns in last week's win over Dimond, left Saturday's game for a brief period in the second half. He said he took a painful hit to the leg but didn't suffer a serious injury.
West was without starting quarterback Sam Wedin, who is nursing a knee injury suffered in last week's loss to Chugiak, so the passing game was limited. The biggest pass play came on a gadget play near the end of the first half, in which wide receiver Leroy Elliot caught a pitch and heaved the ball 40 yards to Marquise Rayford. That led to Faualo's 7-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds to play in the half, putting West up 27-15.
Led by quarterback Conor Feckley the past three seasons, West won a large-school state title in 2010 and reached the semifinals of the state playoffs the past two seasons. Feckley graduated last spring, and West got off to a slow start to this season with losses to Wasilla and Chugiak.
The Eagles regrouped and came out with a new level of focus this week, Faamasino said.
"We want to use this win to try to turn around our season," he said.
Eagle River 7 8 0 15 -- 29
West 7 20 2 6 -- 35
Eagle River -- Ed Hall 4 run (Keegan Willeford kick), 7:43
West -- Lui Faamasino 17 run (Tyrone Davis kick), 2:23
West -- Tyrone Davis 10 run (Davis Ortland kick), 11:52
West -- Faamasino 8 run (kick fail), 9:43
Eagle River -- Isaiah Banks 4 run (Hall catch from Collin Metzel), 2:21
West -- Jake Faualo 7 run (Ortland kick), 0:22
West -- Dave Tuilimu tackle in end zone for safety, 8:44
Eagle River -- Hall 1 run ( Alani Collins pass from Collin Metzel), 5:18
West -- Faamasino 11 run (pass fail), 2:16
Eagle River -- Hall 8 run (kick fail), 1:41
Eagle River West
First downs 14 15
Rushes-yards 43-90 41-214
Passing yards 120 97
Return yards 44 47
Passes 4-11-1 5-10-1
Punts 4-43.0 2-22.5
Fumbles-lost 4-3 5-1
Penalties-yards 6-65 16-104
RUSHING -- Eagle River: Hall 19-85; Bogowith 5-31; Banks 5-10; Stemper 1-1; Collins 1-(-8); Kott 10-(-29). West: Faamasino 19-153; Faualo 12-61; Murchison 2-4; Tuilimu 2-3; Cordero 1-2.
PASSING -- Eagle River: Kott 3-7-0 -- 111; Collins 1-4-1 -- 11. West: Davis 4-7-0 -- 57; Elliot 1-1-0 -- 40; Faualo 0-2-1.
RECEIVING -- Eagle River: Metzel 2-105; Hall 1-9; Collins 1-6. West: Elliot 3-42; Rayford 2-55.