Anchorage — The good news for the Chugiak Mustangs is that they are in the large-school state football playoffs.
The bad news: Saturday's 32-9 Cook Inlet Conference home loss to Bartlett left the Mustangs banged up and limping into the postseason as the fourth seed of the conference's five.
Chugiak could have finished as high as the No. 2 seed with a win, but that spot went to Service after Saturday's 42-7 win over fifth-seeded Dimond. Chugiak's first-round opponent will be Service, which the Mustangs beat in Week 4.
Chugiak (5-3, 4-3 CIC) started strong Saturday at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium and led 9-0 after the first quarter, a 12-minute stretch in which Bartlett (3-5, 3-4 CIC) failed to gain a yard.
It only took 2 minutes, 19 seconds for the advantage to swing dramatically in Bartlett's favor. The Golden Bears scored three times in that span, with quarterback Zyrelle Jones having a hand in all three touchdowns. They got rolling with a 99-yard drive that followed a goal-line stand. Jones capped the 13-play drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass, the first of two scoring tosses to Dustyn Belgarde.
Chugiak's Gabe Mingledorff fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Bartlett recovered at the Chugiak 19. The Golden Bears took a 12-9 lead five plays later on a 2-yard run by Jones. They extended the lead to 18-9 at halftime on a 5-yard pass from Jones to Edress Irving. That score was set up by Isaiah Masina's interception.
Things continued downhill for Chugiak in the second half when quarterback Ben Stewart was injured on the first play and had to leave the game. Mingledorff took over as the signal caller, but couldn't lead the Mustangs to any points.
Bartlett completed its run of 32 unanswered points with two second-half scores. Jones threw his third touchdown pass, a 27-yarder to Belgarde, to put Bartlett up 25-9 about midway through the fourth quarter, and Masina bolted to into the end zone from 30 yards out with 1:41 to play.
Despite closing the season on a three-game winning streak that included wins over Eagle River and East, Bartlett finished sixth in the CIC and failed to earn one of the league's five playoff berths. The Golden Bears didn't win a game last season and lost its first five this season.
When Chugiak beat Service in Week 4, Service was missing nine starters due to a combination of injuries and suspensions. When the Mustangs take on the Cougars in the first round of the playoffs, they will be dealing with numerous injuries of their own. In addition to Stewart, running backs Karson Forbush, Dylan Timberlake and Tyler Carnahan are all nursing injuries. Timberlake, who has been hurt most of the season, played in the first half Saturday, Carnahan got two carries and Forbush didn't suit up.
Chugiak -- Stewart 1 run (kick fail), 7:53
Chugiak -- Tulare 35 field goal, 4:01
Bartlett -- Belgarde 26 pass from Jones (run fail), 2:43.
Bartlett -- Jones 2 run (run fail), 1:26
Bartlett -- Irving 5 pass from Jones (kick blocked), 0:24
Bartlett -- Belgarde 27 pass from Jones (Freelove kick), 6:27
Bartlett -- Masina 30 run (Freelove kick), 1:41
RUSHING -- Bartlett: Irving 10-82, Masina 6-54, Honore 9-19, Lega 2-19, Hoffman 7-12, Pace-Alexander 4-12, Kenney 2-(-2), Atafua 3-(-6), Jones 7-(-23). Chugiak: Mingledorff 22-57, Quigley 6-21, Timberlake 2-5, Stewart 5-0, Carnahan 2-(-1).
PASSING -- Bartlett: Jones 8-17-0 -- 120. Chugiak: Stewart 2-5-1 -- 31; Mingledorff 2-6-1 -- 11.
RECEIVING -- Bartlett: Belgarde 2-53; Irving 5-34; Hoffman 1-33. Chugiak: Mingledorff 1-23; Quigley 2-13; Edwin 1-6.