Anchorage — The Service football team got its season back on track in a big way Thursday at Dimond Alumni Field.
After losing a nail-biter to Chugiak last weekend, the Cougars blasted Eagle River 52-14 behind four touchdown passes from Cook Inlet Conference passing leader C.J. Toomer.
"It's great to respond with a win," Toomer said. "We try to stay focused every game, but we had a chip on our shoulder, for sure."
Thursday's CIC game began as a defensive struggle, but Service scored 10 points in the final two minutes of the first period. Kicker Haleigh Van Allen opened the scoring with a 36-yard field goal and Armend Aliju hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Toomer.
Eagle River was hanging tough throughout the second quarter, but Service's Nahshon Fromm returned an interception 45 yards to pay dirt with less than two minutes to play in the half to put Service up 17-0.
By the time Toomer found Ihro Raguindin with touchdown passes of 4 yards and 16 yards in the third quarter, Service had all but put the game away with 31-0 lead.
Eagle River responded with one of the season's coolest highlights, however, scoring two touchdowns in eight seconds at the start of the fourth quarter.
The sequence started with quarterback Peter Kott scampering wide left for a 4-yard scoring run with 11:53 to play. The Wolves followed a two-point conversion with an onside kick recovery, and Kott made quick work of the ensuing possession when he connected with Collin Metzel for a 49-yard touchdown pass on the first play.
Service (4-1, 3-1 CIC) led 31-14 after a failed two-point conversion attempt from Eagle River (1-4, 1-3 CIC), and the Cougars cemented the win with three touchdowns in the final seven minutes.
"I give all the credit to (Service)," Eagle River coach Jason Brewer said. "I knew they had 11 kids out last week and they were gonna come out fired up and they did."
Service was missing nine starters in last weekend's 27-26 loss at Chugiak, some due to injury and some due to suspensions. In addition to getting many of those players back, the Cougars also found a new running back in Jared Peltola. He was the only Service running back to carry the ball in the first half and he finished the game with 104 yards on 18 carries.
"He was our backup quarterback, but we decided to put him at running back, because he ran the ball well at the quarterback position," said Toomer, who finished with 235 passing yards and 62 rushing yards. "He stepped up wonderfully today."
Service is looking forward to next week's showdown with first-place South, Toomer said. The game will be a rematch of the last two large-school state championship games. South is defending champion and Service won a title in 2011.
"They're a great team," Toomer said. "We're gonna have to prepare hard, work hard, stay healthy and bring it."
Eagle River suffered some injuries to its offensive line Thursday, Brewer said, and hopes to recover in time for next week's game with rival Chugiak. Despite the big loss to Service, Brewer said the Wolves' spirits remain high.
"We need to get better every day," he said. "We're gonna get back to work."
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
Eagle River 0 0 0 14 -- 14
Service 10 7 14 21-- 52
Service --Van Allen 36 field goal, 1:40.
Service -- Aliju 12 pass from Toomer, (Van Allen kick), 1:14.
Service -- Nahshon Fromm 45 interception return (Van Allen kick), 1:42.
Service -- Raguindin 4 pass from Toomer (Van Allen kick), 5:55.
Service -- Raguindin 16 pass from Toomer (Van Allen kick), 2:42.
Eagle River -- Kott 4 run (Willeford pass from Metzel), 11:53.
Eagle River -- Metzel 49 pass from Kott (run fail), 11:45
Service -- Fromm 15 pass from Toomer (Van Allen kick), 6:46
Service -- Jones 4 run (Van Allen kick), 3:10
Service -- Tatum 16 run (Van Allen kick), :43
Eagle River Service
First Downs 8 24
Rushes-yards 34-35 39-224
Passing yards 134 235
Return yards 91 90
Passes 8-21-4 18-42-0
Punts 7-35.2 3-33.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 7-40 7-96
RUSHING -- Eagle River: Hall 14-16; Isaiah Banks 4-10; Leroy Banks 5-9; Lehaney 1-4; Kott 5-2; Collins 5-(-6). Service: Peltola 18-104; Toomer 8-62; Jones 7-41; Tatum 3-10; Pereda 2-4; Hansen 1-3;
PASSING -- Eagle River: Kott 6-18-3---110; Metzel 1-1-0--19; Collins 1-2-1--5. Service: Toomer 18-41-0--235; Tatum 0-1-0--0.
RECEIVING -- Eagle River: Metzel 3-93; Isaiah Banks 3-32; Hall 2-9. Service: Fromm 7-106; Aliju 5-58; Johnson 3-43; Raguindin 2-20; Sriseneha 1-5; Peltola 1-3.