Snap, run, score, repeat.
A tough week of repetition will cure any football team of mistakes and errors, and after a brutal loss to North Pole a week prior, Kenai Central made sure not to commit the same mistakes.
Kenai Central had a better time of scoring Saturday afternoon at Ed Hollier Field to earn a 27-0 shutout victory over Juneau-Douglas, a rival Division II opponent.
Dodging the intermittent rain showers that soaked the field, senior running back Rykker Riddall fueled the Kardinals running game with 78 rushing yards on 24 carries and two touchdown runs, then notched the dagger in the fourth quarter with an 18-yard pick six.
“There were still a few mental mistakes, but it was a lot better,” Riddall said.
Kenai improved to 2-1 overall with the win, including a first-week forfeit victory over Nikiski in a scrimmage, while Juneau dropped its first game of the season and fell to 2-1.
Junior quarterback Connor Felchle returned from a four-pick performance last week to post 136 passing yards and a touchdown pass to senior receiver Zack Tuttle.
Last week in an 8-6 loss to North Pole, Kenai could only manage six points on five trips into the North Pole red zone.
In six trips into the red zone against Juneau, Kenai scored three times, twice fell short on fourth down and also had a 34-yard failed field goal kick. Kenai head coach Ted Riddall said it was a step in the right direction, but still not where the team wants to be.
“Again, we were inside the 20 (yard line) five times, we’ve still got to punch it in,” he said. “But we have a new offense, some of the young guys are still learning and knowing what the play call is and running to the gap faster will help us be successful.”
The most pleasing thing, Riddall said, was the defensive line execution. Kenai’s defense swarmed Juneau all day long and sacked the Crimson Bears quarterback six times, two on senior starter Bubba Stults, then four more on backup signal-caller Maximus Wheat, who took over in the second half after Stults went down with an injury.
Junior lineman John Grossl had two sacks and a strip fumble on Wheat in the second half, and the Kards had two other interceptions erased by penalties.
“As a defensive coach, that’s awesome,” Riddall said. “It’s not always the points on the board, it’s about having the quick changes that stop the other team.”
Overall, Kenai contained Juneau to 63 totals yards, and only 4 yards of rushing.
After trading turnovers on downs in the first quarter, Kenai finally exorcised their red zone demons with an eight-play drive that was sparked with a 41-yard bomb from Felchle to James Siamani that set Kenai up at Juneau’s 28-yard line. Riddall capped the drive with a 1-yard scamper around the left edge to put Kenai on the board.
On Juneau’s ensuing possession, the Bears didn’t make it far before Byron Dunham and Siamani teamed up to strip sack Stults at midfield, setting up the Kards for another drive to the red zone.
This time, however, Kenai came up short on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, handing Juneau the ball deep in its own territory.
After a Juneau punt, Kenai again marched down to the red zone, but couldn’t score from the 9-yard line on fourth down.
Leading 7-0 at halftime, the Kards forced a punt on the opening Juneau possession, and a 26-yard return by Tuttle set Kenai up at the Juneau 14-yard line, where the Kards again missed a scoring opportunity on a 34-yard field goal miss by Kaden McKibben.
On its next possession of the third quarter, Kenai marched 45 yards in eight plays, but yet again found itself facing fourth down on the 1-yard line.
This time, the Kards cashed in with a push up the middle by Riddall, extending the lead to 15-0 on a two-point run by Riddall.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Grossl burst into the Bears backfield and stripped the ball from Wheat, allowing Caleb Streiff to recover at the Juneau 20-yard line. Two plays later, Felchle found an open Tuttle in the end zone for 18 yards and a 21-0 lead. Tuttle finished with four catches for 89 yards on the day.
Riddall iced the game on the next Juneau possession by hauling in an interception for a touchdown.
Kardinals 27, Crimson Bears 0
Juneau 0 0 0 0 —0
Kenai 0 7 8 12 —27
Ken — Riddall 1 run (McKibben kick), 11:19
Ken — Riddall 1 run (Riddall run), 1:04
Ken — Tuttle 18 pass from Felchle (run failed), 11:15
Ken — Riddall 18 interception return (kick failed), 10:15
First Downs 12 8
Rushing 46-119 37-4
Pass yards 136 59
Total yards 255 63
Comp-att-int 6-13-0 4-9-1
Return yards 100 61
Punts 2 3
Fumbles-lost 4-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 7-90 8-62
RUSHING — Kenai: R. Riddall 24-78, Siamani 6-32, O’Brien 2-0, Burnett 2-5, T. Riddall 6-26, Felchle 2-(-10), Tuttle 2-(-14), Baker 1-0. Juneau: Van Sickle 15-22, Galletes-Fenumiai 2-7, Batac 4-8, Galletes 3-(-5), Stults 4-(-6), McCurley 2-(-3), Wheat 5-(-28), Kriegmont 1-8.
PASSING — Kenai: Felchle 6-13-1—136. Juneau: Stults 4-7-0—59, Wheat 0-2-1—0.