A lot was on the line in a big Northern Lights Conference clash Saturday afternoon at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai, and Eagle River senior Ryan Adkins didn’t wilt under the pressure.
Adkins led the Wolves to a convincing 48-14 victory over Kenai Central with a staggering 415 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Listed at 6-foot-3, Adkins imposed his size and athleticism on the Kardinals, shredding the defense by completing 15 of 22 pass attempts, while scoring twice on his feet. In all, Adkins accounted for six touchdowns and 464 yards of offense.
“He did a good job, the offensive line held and he had the time to throw,” said Wolves head coach Robert Adkins, also Ryan’s father. “He was just connecting well with receivers.”
Eagle River took a big step toward clinching its first state playoff berth in program history, which dates back to 2006 for the varsity team. The Wolves (2-1 conference, 4-1 overall) currently sit second in the NLC behind SoHi (2-0 NLC), and can secure the second and final Division II playoff spot if Kenai (0-1) loses to Kodiak (0-2) next weekend.
“It’s great,” Adkins said. “These boys have chosen to come to Eagle River, instead of going to other schools … this group has stuck together and they’re determined to turn things around.”
The Kardinals’ only hope of making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 is to win out against Kodiak and Soldotna.
Kenai head coach Dustin Akana said the loss weighed heavy after several crucial mistakes cost Kenai points on the field. The final four minutes of the first half included a Kenai interception and two big pass plays by Eagle River that tacked on two touchdowns.
“Again, it’s on us all the way,” Akana said. “We were in our own way, and when we stop making mental mistakes, we’re in the game.”
Coach Adkins said the Wolves’ lone weakness in the game was their discipline, which he acknowledged would need to be cleaned up if Eagle River wishes to vie for a state ring. The Wolves were backed up 135 yards on 17 penalties.
Before the Wolves pulled away, however, Kenai made its presence known. The Kards got touchdowns out of Titus Riddall and Tyrone McEnerney to keep it close in the second quarter.
“All (Eagle River’s) touchdowns came on passing,” Akana noted. “We stopped their run, but their quarterback did a wonderful job. His arm is great, he has pinpoint passing.”
Key mistakes by the Kardinals led to two late scoring drives by Eagle River, which led 34-14 at halftime. A 1-yard gain up the middle by Riddall cut the Wolves’ gap to 19-14 with four minutes remaining in the second quarter, but Eagle River responded immediately with a 69-yard catch and run from Adkins to Mason Piper, who was knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Adkins finished the assault with a 1-yard scoring run.
Kenai got the ball back and was driving into Eagle River territory when Kenai QB Connor Felchle lobbed a fourth-down attempt from the Wolves 30-yard line. The pass fell into the hands of Eagle River defensive back Quinton Jackson at the 5-yard line.
Three plays later, Adkins connected with Quinard Cox for an 86-yard strike with 24 seconds left on the clock to put the Wolves up 20 points, after the two-point pass went from Adkins to Bryson Rollman.
Adkins finished the first half with 282 pass yards and three touchdowns. Overall, Adkins’ favorite target was Piper, who had 148 receiving yards on six catches. Rollman finished with two touchdown catches and 117 receiving yards.
Kenai finished the day with 255 team rushing yards, led by Tyrone McEnerney with 110 yards. Titus Riddall had a team-high 17 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown
Felchle was picked off three times while completing 5 of 14 passes.
Early in the game, Eagle River had trouble moving. Kenai forced a punt on Eagle River’s first possession, then moved 34 yards on offense on 11 plays — including a big fourth-down conversion on a Riddall run — before the Kards were forced to punt.
Eagle River got on the board first with an eight-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a 2-yard QB sneak by Adkins. The touchdown was set up by a 24-yard pass to Kobe Sherman.
Piper picked off Felchle on the first play of Kenai’s ensuing possession, giving Eagle River the ball back and a quick touchdown on a 31-yard air strike from Adkins to Sherman before the first quarter ended.
The Kards were finally able to score on a 10-yard slant pass from Felchle to McEnerney, but the Wolves had an answer for that, too. It took three plays for Adkins to find Rollman streaking 53 yards down the middle for a touchdown and a 19-6 lead.
Riddall’s touchdown run with four minutes left in the half capped a 13-play, 78-yard drive, but that would be as close as Kenai came the rest of the day.
The second half saw the Kardinals shut out while the Wolves padded their lead with a touchdown pass from Adkins to Rollman and a touchdown run by Sherman.
Felchle grabbed an interception on defense for Kenai, while the Kardinals offense twice drove into the red zone, only to be denied. The first red zone drive ended on a third-down interception by Felchle, and the second went down to the 1-yard line, only to be turned over on downs.
WOLVES 48, KARDINALS 14
Eagle River 13 21 7 7 —48
Kenai 0 14 0 0 —14
ER — Adkins 2 run (Hamilton kick), :37
ER — Sherman 31 pass from Adkins (kick failed), :15
Ken — McEnerney 10 pass from Felchle (run failed), 10:57
ER — Rollman 53 pass from Adkins (pass failed), 9:36
Ken — Riddall 1 run (McEnerney pass from Felchle), 4:00
ER — Adkins 1 run (Hamilton kick), 3:34
ER — Cox 86 pass from Adkins (Rollman pass from Adkins), :24
ER — Rollman 15 pass from Adkins (Hamilton kick), :43
ER — Sherman 6 run (Hamilton kick), 4:05
First downs 22 21
Rush yds 32-197 45-255
Pass yds 415 88
Comp-att-int 15-22-1 9-20-4
Return yds 39 61
Punts 2-31 3-40
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties 17-135 10-60
Rushing — Kenai: McEnerney 13-110, Riddall 17-68, No. 24 1-(-2), Burnett 4-23, Vann 6-47, Sylvester 2-15, Felchle 2-(-6). Eagle River: Sherman 10-90, Adkins 9-49, Cox 5-20, No. 1 1-0, Williams 2-8, Baker 3-17, Jackson 2-13.
Passing — Kenai: Felchle 5-14-1—52, Daniels 4-6-0—36. Eagle River: Adkins 15-22-4—415.
Receiving — Kenai: Burnett 3-34, McEnerney 3-25, Pitsch 2-21, Riddall 1-8. Eagle River: Piper 6-148, Rollman 5-117, Cox 2-90, Sherman 3-60.