Let’s be real: Losing really wasn’t even a remote consideration for the East High football team Thursday night.
Facing an Eagle River team that competes honorably but lacks talent, size and depth, East rolled to a 63-0 Cook Inlet Conference victory at Anchorage Football Stadium.
Granted, the victory salved some of the psychic wounds the Thunderbirds’ suffered in their 0-2 start to the season, but they arrived with more goals than just winning.
East aimed to improve its performance on special teams, which were such a serious shortcoming in last week’s 28-0 CIC loss to Bartlett that coach Jeff Trotter said the T-birds this week practiced that facet of the game more than offense and defense. The T-birds also sought to sharpen the most fundamental aspects of their offense, consistently gain yardage, cut down on penalties and, in light of three linemen out with injuries, get out of the game without further debilitating injuries.
They delivered on most of those fronts, though not so much when it came to their propensity for prompting flags. The T-birds were penalized 10 times for 95 yards, and five of those infractions were 15-yarders.
Still, East (1-2, 1-1 CIC) gained 355 yards on just 32 plays. Quarterback Clayton Washburn completed 4 of 7 passes for 135 yards, hooking up with Jumari Berry for first-half touchdowns of 65 yards and 25 yards. The T-birds supplemented that with a rushing attack that delivered 220 yards on just 25 carries.
“Really, we wanted to come together as a team,’’ Berry said. “Our passing game opened things up for our running game, and that energy fed the defense.’’
East’s defense, sparked by two and a half sacks from Guy Johnson and two sacks from Mike Marquez, held the Wolverines (0-3, 0-2 CIC) to just 31 yards total offense on 44 plays. The T-birds also bagged five interceptions. Canyan Linderman accounted for two of those picks and returned one 61 yards for a touchdown. Savon Berry returned his interception 35 yards for a score, and Charles Chandler and former Eagle River player Alani Collins each snagged picks. Collins also rushed for a 9-yard touchdown.
East running back La Atanoa carried nine times for a game-high 94 yards and one touchdown. Tre’von Scott (five carries, 40 yards), Mila Talo (five carries, 37 yards), Collins (four carries, 30 yards) and Johnson each rushed for a touchdown. Eagle River has surrendered 188 points in three games and been mercy-rule victims in all three.
“We just wanted to get confidence for throughout the season because we’ve got a hard road,’’ Atanoa said, referencing next week’s game against West. “Also, our linemen did a good job making holes.’’
Talo returned two punts for 53 yards. But what would have been an 84-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter was flushed by an East penalty for a personal foul, so the special teams still require work.
Eagle River’s total yardage was badly reduced by East’s sacks and other plays that went for losses -- the Wolverines had 14 rushing plays that lost yardage.
Yet Wolverines running back Leroy Banks furnished some determined running, turning eight carries into 45 yards. And John Wilson’s 20 yards on eight carries was strong work -- he absorbed hits and delivered them to finish with positive yardage.
Eagle River 0 0 0 0 -- 0
East 14 22 13 14 -- 63
East — Talo 5 run (Leonard kick), 9:40.
East — Jumari Berry 65 pass from Clayton Washburn (Leonard kick), 5:34.
East — Jumari Berry 25 pass from Washburn (kick blocked), 8:33.
East — Tre’von Scott 39 run (Washburn run), 3:57.
East — La Atanoa 15 run (Berry pass from Collins), :00.
East — Collins 9 run (kick failed), 2:19.
East — Johnson 9 run (Leonard kick), :40.
East — Linderman 61 interception return (kick failed), 6:34.
East — Savon Berry 35 interception return (Leonard run), 5:29.
RUSHING — Eagle River: Banks 8-45, Wilson 8-20, Porter 3-(-1), Heagy 3-(-15), Thompson 7-(-27). East: Atanoa 7-94, Scott 5-40, Talo 5-37, Collins 4-30, Johnson 2-20, Nichols 1-(-1).
PASSING — Eagle River: Heagy 1-11-5—6, Thompson 2-4-1—3. East: Washburn 4-7-0—135.
RECEIVING — Eagle River: George 1-6, Barnes 1-3, C. Smith 1-0. East: J. Berry 2-90, Collins 1-41, Talo 1-4.