Barrow defeated Kenai Central 28-12 on Saturday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai in a battle for the third and final playoff spot out of the Mid Alaska Conference.
The Whalers moved to 2-2 in the league and 4-2 overall in earning a Division III semifinal against undefeated and Mid Alaska champion Houston. The Kardinals see their season end at 1-3 in the league and 4-4 overall.
Barrow went into halftime on Kenai’s senior night with a 22-0 lead, then withstood a frantic Kardinals comeback in the third quarter to make the playoffs after playing a combined two games in the past two seasons due to the pandemic.
“So this summer, I took them out to a football camp in Missouri to get ourselves ready to play football,” Barrow head coach Christopher Battle said. “I had about 15 guys go. Then we started the season and we played hard and the guys committed and came in.”
In a game with wild swings back and forth, Barrow’s control of the line of scrimmage remained constant. The Whalers rushed 57 times for 260 yards, while Kenai rushed 14 times for 16 yards.
Still, it was a game where the Kardinals had their chances.
Barrow quickly jumped to a 14-0 lead. Kenai went four-and-out, Barrow drove for a Dwight Unutoa touchdown run, Barrow recovered an onside kick, then Barrow drove for another Unutoa touchdown to make it 14-0 with 2:31 left in the first quarter.
Kenai then drove the ball to the Barrow 1-yard line before turning it over on downs with 10:37 left in the second quarter. Barrow held the ball until Wade James picked off Unutoa with 48 seconds left on the Kenai 9.
Unutoa got even on the next play, leaping with one hand to intercept Kenai quarterback Bridger Beck and return it 20 yards for a 21-0 lead at the half.
Barrow started the second half with the ball and held it until 5:50, when the momentum abruptly shifted. Gabriel Ortilla fumbled and Carnell Gump, listed at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, on the roster, returned it 66 yards for a score.
The Whalers fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Reagan Graves capped a six-play drive by running a screen pass from Beck 25 yards for a touchdown and a 22-12 score with 3:26 left in the third.
Rey Perez then intercepted Unutoa to start the fourth quarter and set Kenai up at the Barrow 48. The Whalers stopped the bleeding by forcing Kenai to go four-and-out and turn the ball over with 9:05 to play.
It was the last Kenai would see of the ball.
Barrow went on a 13-play drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Jayson Akpik with 17 seconds left.
“They just had to get their composure,” Battle said of his team. “Once they got their composure under control, hey, it was good to go.”
The Whalers, who do onside kicks on every kickoff, then recovered another one and took a knee to run out the clock.
“That’s what we do,” Battle said. “We onside kick. Because people have got to prepare for it. And half of the time, they don’t ever prepare for it.”
Battle credited Unutoa with doing a great job, and also credited senior Kolo Danner for running 14 times for 88 yards. Danner is a senior in his first year of football.
Seniors honored for Kenai after the game were Beck, Luke Armstrong, James, Roc Riggle, Christian Caddock, Owen Whicker, Davion Swain, Ryan Pierce, Graves, Jonah Moses, Alston Thomas, Adam Anglebrandt, Lathan Peterson, Cooper Bernard, Gump, Zachary Halstead, Shane Taylor, Ransom Hayes and Perez.
Whalers 28, Kardinals 12
Barrow 14 8 0 6 —28
Kenai 0 0 12 0 —12
Bar — D. Unutoa 6 run (pass failed), 6:05.
Bar — D. Unutoa 8 run (Danner run), 2:31
Bar — D. Unutoa 20 interception return (Danner run), 0:25.
Ken — Gump 66 fumble return (run failed), 5:50.
Ken — Graves 25 pass from Beck (run failed), 3:26.
Bar — Akpik 1 run (run failed), 0:17.
First downs 20 3
Rushing 57-260 14-16
Passing 7 96
Comp-att-int 2-6-2 6-12-1
Return yds 20 66
Punts 0 0
Fumbles 2-2 0-0
Penalties 10-75 11-106
Rushing — Barrow: Danner 14-88, Dias 16-55, Akpik 11-35, D. Unutoa 13-75, Ortilla 3-7. Kenai: Graves 6-(-3), Whicker 5-8, Beck 2-3, Perez 1-8.
Passing — Barrow: D. Unutoa 2-6-2—7. Kenai: Beck 6-12-1—96.