The Eagle River football team has a new coach

jpeters@adn.comDecember 11, 2013 

The Eagle River high school football team hasn't had much stability in the coaching department since the school opened in 2005, but new coach Matt Turner hopes to change that.

Turner was named the new head coach of the Wolves this week and hopes be at the helm for a long time. The 1998 Chugiak graduate has taught social studies at Eagle River High since 2005 and plans to continue living in his home town.

"I was tired of seeing this job get turned over every two years," Turner said. "They need the stability."

The job is Turner's first as a boys varsity head football coach. The former lineman on Chugiak's 1996 state championship team always wanted to be a head football coach, but timing wasn't right when the job at Eagle River opened up in the past.

Turner committed to coaching the Eagle River flag football team in 2009 and didn't want to bail on the girls. Coaching flag football taught Turner a lot about running a program and even taught him something about football schematics.

"The girls taught me there's a lot more out there diversity-wise in the playbook than I never would have thought of," Turner said. "Another thing I learned from the girls: you gotta be willing to adapt to your team."

Assessing the talent on a given team and setting up the playbook around that talent is better than trying to fit players into a system, said Turner, who is also the head coach of Eagle River's track and field team and an assistant coach with the cross-country running team.

Turner, 33, last coached boys football as an assistant with Eagle River in 2006. His only previous head coaching job in football came in 2005, when he coached the Chugiak C-team to a 5-2 record. His highest head-coaching accolade came last spring, when he was named the Cook Inlet Conference coach of the year in track and field.

Turner loves coaching for all the teachable moments it provides. A teacher first, he enjoys seeing kids learn how to play, compete and excel. Turner, who played college football with Northern State University in South Dakota, plans to apply all the lessons he's learned in previous coaching jobs to his new job.

Turner takes over for Jason Brewer, who coached the Wolves the last two seasons, before being deployed overseas with his National Guard unit after Week 6 of last season.

"I think Brewer was doing it right, had the kids on the right track," Turner said.

Eagle River went 1-7 last season, a familiar result for a team that hasn't won more than three games in a season. Turning the Wolves around will take some time, Turner said, and will take a collective change of attitude. Once the players start to realize they can win, he thinks the program will take off.

"We've always had the athletes," he said. "I think it's more a mental hurdle."

Reach Jeremy Peters at or 257-4335.


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