In an eight-game regular season, high school football standings can change drastically from week to week, but this week's changes have suddenly become more drastic than usual.
With Chugiak forfeiting three wins due to an ineligible-player violation discovered Wednesday, three other teams -- South, Eagle River and Colony -- each picked up an unexpected win.
South benefits by moving into sole possession of second place in the Cook Inlet Conference, which will send its top four teams to the playoffs. The Wolverines' 4-1 CIC record puts them one win from clinching a berth in the state playoffs.
Eagle River of the CIC and Colony of the Railbelt Conference were both winless before the forfeits and had already been mathematically eliminated from the post season.
Chugiak will now also be mathematically eliminated after falling to last place in the CIC. Before the forfeits, the Mustangs were right in the thick of a tight state playoff race that presented the possibility of six of the CIC's eight teams being tied with 3-3 records at the end of this weekend's play. The Mustangs needed to win their final two games for a shot at the postseason.
With Chugiak out of the picture, the playoff scene is simplified significantly. First-place Service (5-0 CIC), which clinched a state tournament berth with last weekend's win, plays Eagle River tonight in an inconsequential game.
Defending state champion West and East each own 3-2 CIC records and can each clinch playoff spots with wins this weekend over Chugiak and Bartlett, respectively.
The Eagles will go for their fourth win in a clash with Chugiak tonight at Anchorage Football Stadium. West is riding a two-game winning streak and could be building momentum after last weekend's 47-21 win over Bartlett.
West quarterback Conor Feckley, who led the conference in passing yards as a sophomore last season, used last weekend's 357-yard performance to vault past Service's Amu Aukusitino for the season lead in passing yardage.
Feckley has thrown for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns, with most of his passes going to receivers Marcel Dion and Lamarr Brown. Both have over 600 receiving yards, with Dion hauling in seven touchdown receptions and Brown grabbing eight. Dion sizzled in his last game, racking 228 yards on 10 catches and scoring two touchdowns.
East has an impressive receiver of its own in Jarred Laws, whose eight touchdowns and 457 yards have been a big reason the Thunderbirds have a shot at the playoffs.
Saturday, they will face a Bartlett team with its back against the wall. The Golden Bears (2-3 CIC) must win their two remaining games to have any shot at the postseason and will most likely need another strong performance from Trenton Anthony, the CIC's leading rusher. Anthony has reached at least 100 yards in each game this season, totaling 856 to go with nine touchdowns and a 10.6 yards-per-carry average.
Dimond (2-3 CIC) will rely mostly on the running of Nathan Stephens to keep its hopes alive in a Saturday game against South. The Lynx must win their final two games and also need East and West to lose their final two games.
Stephens is second in the conference with 687 rushing yards. He accounted for virtually every offensive yard in last week's 21-14 overtime win over Chugiak, including the game-winning touchdown reception.
Stephens and the Lynx will try to spoil South's homecoming game in a bit of a family affair. Dimond senior quarterback Ryden Hines and South junior quarterback Zach Lujan are cousins, and the two have played football against each other since youth football.
Lujan and the Wolverines lost to South last season and are hoping to bounce back from last weekend's lopsided 42-13 defeat at the hands of Service.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News