Chugiak football coach Roger Spackman likes to say he's glad senior Derryk Snell is on his side.
The versatile senior did a little bit of everything for the Mustangs in a 20-6 football win Friday over defending state champion East.
Snell notched all three Chugiak touchdowns — including a 74-yard reception from quarterback Hunter Harr in the third quarter — and recorded two fumble recoveries and a sack on defense.
"He's probably the best player at five different positions for us," Spackman said of Snell, who spends time at wide receiver, running back, fullback, linebacker and safety. "We can put him in all kinds of places and he can do a lot of damage."
Snell didn't take long to get rolling Friday with a 12-yard touchdown run on Chugiak's first drive of the game.
East responded on the next drive with a 51-yard run by junior wide receiver Sio Sefo that set up the Thunderbirds inside the Chugiak 10-yard line. East quarterback Jasun Duston punched in the ball on fourth-and-4 to cut Chugiak's lead to 7-6.
The Mustangs held onto their one-point lead for the rest of the half, but East found itself back inside Chugiak's 10-yard line midway through the third quarter.
Chugiak stopped the T-birds on four straight plays and scored on the ensuing 89-yard drive, capped by Snell's big touchdown reception in what Spackman said was the turning point in the game.
Harr found Snell racing up the middle and Snell sprinted the remaining 50 yards to the end zone, dragging East defenders with him for the final five yards.
"All I thought about when the ball was in the air is, 'Don't drop it and whatever happens, happens,' " Snell said. "I couldn't let my team down. I had to score."
The next quarter he scored again to put the Mustangs up by two touchdowns.
East coach Jeff Trotter said his team was doomed by mistakes. The Thunderbirds committed three turnovers and 13 penalties.
"Every time we did something good, we backtracked," Trotter said. "I don't think anyone in particular played poorly, but we all took turns."
Trotter said he expects his team to get better with time. Only three of East's 22 Friday starters were returners.
Meanwhile, Chugiak is a team overflowing with experience. The Mustangs boast 17 seniors, most of whom have been playing together for the better part of a decade.
"Almost all of us have been playing together since we were 6 years old in Pop Warner, so we have a lot of team chemistry and we work good together," Snell said. "We try to lead by example."
East wasn't the only defending state champ to absorb an opening-night loss Friday.
In Fairbanks, West Valley knocked off Eielson 17-15 with Ethan Raygor's game-winning 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Eielson, the reigning Division III champion, led 15-14 after three quarters. Jerimiah Brown rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns to spark the Ravens.
West Valley, a member of the Division I Railbelt Conference, got 132 yards and one touchdown from Preston Damario.
In other action, the Redington Huskies broke into the win column for the first time in program history by throttling Monroe 54-40 in Fairbanks. Redington was 0-8 in its first season of varsity play last year.
In Houston, the Juneau Crimson Bears scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Hawks 27-20.
Houston, last season's Division III (small school) runner-up, led 8-0 after one quarter and 14-7 at the half. The score was tied 14-14 after three quarters.
In Palmer, the North Pole Patriots reeled off 20 points in the first quarter to rally past the Moose 20-19.
Palmer, ranked third in the preseason poll for Division II and Division III schools, led 12-0 after three quarters.
Friday's only other game resulted in a forfeit, according to the Peninsula Clarion. Citing a low turnout of players, the Nikiski Bulldogs forfeited to the Kenai Kardinals.
Chugiak 7 0 6 7 — 20
East 6 0 0 0 — 6
Chugiak — Snell 12 run (Sitz kick), 8:05.
East — Duston 4 run (Eppenger run failed), 5:16.
Chugiak — Snell 74 pass from Harr (Sitz kick), 0:26.9.
Chugiak — Snell 4 pass from Harr (Sitz kick), 3:43.
RUSHING — Chugiak: H. Harr 9-66, Jones 19-57, Snell 7-41, Maad 2-14, A. Harr 4-11, Sisson 1-5, Wedel 1-(-6), team 3-(-20). East: Sio 2-52, Eppenger 10-40, Kalani Medeiros 6-26, Baker 1-19, Duston 10-20, Kapono Medeiros 1-13, Smith 1-(-4), team 1-(-11).
PASSING — Chugiak: H. Harr 2-5-0–83, Tomosoulo 1-1-0–1. East: Duston 5-11-1–45, Kapono Medeiros 0-1-0–0.
RECEIVING — Chugiak: Snell 2-75, Maad 1-9. East: Sefo 1-13, Baker 1-10, Smith 1-13, Fitiausi 1-8, Herman 1-2.