"This game should be considered the big game of the week," said South High coach John Lewis, whose top-ranked Wolverines will be snarling for revenge when they travel to Chugiak's Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium for a 7 p.m. Saturday night clash with the Mustangs.
Chugiak beat South 34-27 in overtime in the final week of the 2010 regular season, shocking the Wolverines with 17 fourth-quarter points behind a monster performance from Chugiak back Greg Ghramm. Ghramm (who has since graduated and gone on to play college ball at Snow College in Utah) ran for three touchdowns in that game and threw another to Colby Mitchell. Chugiak also got a pair of long field goals by Bryan Maley.
Mitchell and Maley have also graduated, meaning a new group of Mustangs will have to deal with the Wolverines' wrath.
That's okay with Dane Prince.
"I think we've got a good game play set up," said Prince, a junior quarterback.
Prince and others in blue and black took notice when South showed up at the preseason Chugiak Stampede scrimmages carrying pencils and notepads.
"I was kinda disappointed they came all the way out here and didn't bring pads," said senior lineman Kody Trombley.
The loss to Chugiak knocked South out of the playoffs for the first time since South's inaugural 2004 season, and Lewis said he believes Saturday's game will be a test of his team's resiliency.
"I think right now it's time for South to show up," he said.
South enters the game ranked No. 1 in the preseason ASBN media poll, while the Mustangs are No. 3.
Last year, teams combined for nearly 500 yards rushing in the regular season finale, and Chugiak coach Duncan Shackelford said he's expecting another smash-mouth affair.
"South is gonna be a South game, there's no doubt about it," Shackelford said.
Though their campuses are further apart than any schools in the Cook Inlet Conference, the two schools have a close history. South leads the all-time series 4-3, and every game besides Chugiak's 31-0 win in 2004 has been decided by seven points or fewer.
"No matter what, we battle it out," Shackelford said.
Adding to the familiarity is Lewis himself, who played his high school ball in Mustang country and said he loves bringing his team out to Huffer Stadium.
"It's always a blast to play out there," said Lewis, who also has several Chugiak-raised assistants on his staff.
With both teams hoping to establish new identities this season, Chugiak senior lineman Steven Puterbaugh said he thinks the game will be intense and hard-hitting.
"I think they're ready," he said. "And we're ready, too."
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, August 10, 2011.