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Story Last modified at 9:26 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

State football playoffs to be on home turf
ASAA votes to move big games to Chugiak's Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Chugiak's Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium has been chosen by the Alaska School Activities Association as the site of the 2011 state football playoffs. The decision was made during the ASAA board's meeting earlier this year in Anchorage.
STAR FILE PHOTO

Get ready for some football, Chugiak.

At its most recent board meeting in February, the Alaska School Activities Association by unanimous consent approved a proposal to move the state football playoffs from the dilapidated Anchorage Football Stadium to the newly christened Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium at Chugiak High.

It's a move whose time has come, said Mustangs head coach Duncan Shackelford.

"It's time to get to somewhere where I think is one of the nicest high school stadiums in the nation," Shackelford said of Huffer Stadium. "You can't beat the scenery."

ASAA has yet to finalize a playoff schedule for next year, and it's unclear how many games would be played at the stadium. In past years, the four semifinal (two each for the Large and Small Schools divisions) and the championship games were played in Anchorage. However, that number could be higher this year, as ASAA also voted to create a third, "Middle" division in football that will add to the schedule.

ASAA executive director Gary Matthews was traveling as of press time and unavailable for comment.

The issue of moving the playoffs came to a head last season, after the municipality of Anchorage condemned the AFS locker rooms, forcing teams into portable locker rooms at the stadium.

Shackelford said he has no doubt that Chugiak can host a top-notch event.

"We have the parking, we have the venue to hold a big state competition," he said.

As to potential charges by anyone that the change will bring an unfair home-field advantage to the Mustangs, "Shack" isn't buying it.

"Ask the Dallas Cowboys how that worked out," he said.

Shackelford said the credit for getting the games to Chugiak goes to the school's administration, the field's namesake and Rep. Bill Stoltze, who helped secure funding for Chugiak's $1.35 million field renovation in 2008.

"Kudos to Coach Huff and (Chugiak athletic director) Paul Brauneis and all those guys behind the scenes," he said.

For his part, Huffer said he's happy the game will be at Chugiak even if it's just because the school's turf is so much better than that in the city.

"It's an ugly place to play. It used to scare me to play the girls (flag football) down there because they don't have helmets and it's hard as a rock," he said.

Huffer said he would have been happy if the board had decided to move the game to either Chugiak or Dimond, which also has a renovated stadium on campus.

"Either place would have been fine with me," he said.

Huffer said the playoff games will be a nice boost for the community.

"I don't think it benefits the school itself ... but we'll probably benefit from it, and it's just a nice place," he said.

Huffer said the next step will be to renovate the old press boxes at Chugiak, which he said will be done over the summer, with some money lined up by Stoltze and other private donations.

"It's been up there so long, it's rotten," he said. "But we'll get it done."

Contact Matt Tunseth at matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com or 694-2727.



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, April 13, 2011.