With a stalwart defense that nearly earned a shutout and a sophomore quarterback who is earning his stripes, the Chugiak football team began the football season with a solid 17-6 nonconference win over visiting West Valley.
West Valley scored its only points with 45 seconds remaining, when quarterback Charles Sudduth hit Dv'nn Cooks with a 19-yard pass. It was too little, too late against a Chugiak team that ran for 225 yards and held the Wolfpack to 82 rushing yards on the turf at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium.
"I felt like we had a real desire and a passion to play the game together, and as the game went on we started clicking," said Chugiak senior lineman Jake Brownlee. "We wanted that shutout, but a win's a win. I think defense is gonna be our backbone."
Brownlee, who plays left tackle on offense and is an interior defensive lineman, provided the signature play of the game when he tore through the West Valley offensive line in the third quarter, stripped the ball from Sudduth and falling on it to give the Mustangs possession near midfield. At the time, the Mustangs led 9-0, but West Valley was starting to move the ball.
The play seemed to deflate the Wolfpack (0-1), Brownlee said, as did the Mustangs' final touchdown later in the fourth quarter.
Chugiak's final scoring drive started at the West Valley 40-yard line and ended with quarterback Ben Stewart diving across the goal line from a yard out. The nail in the coffin came when Zach Bensel ran in for a two-point conversion to put the Mustangs up 17-0 with 3:39 to play.
"He's so small, you can't see him," Brownlee said of Bensel. "It's great to put those two points up and you kind of just felt (West Valley) sit back a little bit."
Chugiak coach Duncan Shackelford, who is coaching his final season with the Mustangs, was excited about starting the season with a win and excited about the play of three sophomores. Along with Stewart getting his first start at quarterback, Tevin Cormier and Bauer Hall both played at cornerback.
"I like the way they came up and played aggressively today," Shackelford said. "Benny, I saw his confidence grow as the game went on. He's gotta learn that he's the field general out there, he's the commander."
Senior Dylan Timberlake led the rushing attack for the Mustangs, finishing with 79 yards on nine carries. He ripped off a 24-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put Chugiak up 9-0.
Gabe Mingledorff shouldered the biggest workload for Chugiak, carrying the ball 12 times and showing off nifty moves on his way to 76 yards.
The only first-half points came from the foot of Chugiak kicker Tyler Tulare, who comfortably booted a 30-yarder on the south end of the field.
West Valley had a great opportunity to score in the second quarter after recovering a Chugiak fumble inside the Mustangs' 20-yard line. The Chugiak defense refused to buckle, however, regaining possession three plays later when Marcus Gamble intercepted a Sudduth pass inside the 10.
Sudduth, who threw for 142 yards, showed flashes of brilliance with his feet and arm. He scrambled for some big first downs and fired darts all over the field. He saved his best play for last, when he threw an arching pass over the outstretched hands of defenders and found an open Cooks for game's final score.
"The game wasn't over," said Cooks, who goes by the nickname Prince. "We're not gonna put our heads down and just get beat like that. We're gonna finish the game."
Chugiak and West Valley both begin conference play next week, with Chugiak hosting West in Cook Inlet Conference play and West Valley hosting Palmer in Railbelt Conference play.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
West Valley 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Chugiak 3 0 6 8 -- 17
Chugiak -- FG 30 Tulare, 6:31.
Chugiak -- Timberlake 24 run (kick fail), 8:02.
Chugiak -- Stewart 1 run (Bensel run), 3:39.
West Valley -- Cooks 19 pass from Sudduth (run fail), :44.8
West Valley Chugiak
First downs 9 11
Rushes-yards 23-82 37-225
Passing yards 142 15
Return yards 68 40
Passes 8-13-1 4-12-1
Punts 4-32.3 2-36.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 9-74 9-65
RUSHING -- West Valley: Sudduth 6-34; Evanger 8-26; Damario 6-8; Kelley 1-6; Lerandeau 1-5; Cooks 1-3. Chugiak: Timberlake 9-79; Mingledorff 12-76; Quigley 6-31; Carnahan 4-20; Stewart 4-10; Bensel 1-5; Williams 1-4.
PASSING -- West Valley: Sudduth 8-13-1 -- 142 . Chugiak: Stewart 4-12-1 --15 .
RECEIVING -- West Valley: Cooks 5-85; Connell 2-53; Evanger 1-4. Chugiak: Timberlake 1-12; Williams 1-4; Oldenkamp 1-1; Mingledorff 1 (-2).
By JEREMY PETERS