FAIRBANKS — James Watson-Patriot Pride Field at North Pole High School was covered with snow for Friday night’s nonconference football game between two of the top medium schools teams in the state.
The snow didn’t seem to bother the Kenai Central Kardinals, who pulled away for a 45-8 win over the North Pole Patriots.
“It’s just one more thing to get us hyped; we love the game of football,” said Kardinals running back Andrew Welborn. “It just adds a different element and we love it all.”
The Kardinals, 5-1 overall and ranked third among small and medium schools in the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network Poll, also loved the work of their offensive line.
“The O-line is a beast, they get it done every week,’’ said Welborn, who because of his teammates in the offensive trenches, generated 175 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns.
“We pride in ourselves in them, they work every day and they’re just animals,’’ Welborn added.
The Kardinals, of the Northern Lights Conference, compiled 474 yards in total offense, all on the ground. Another Kenai running back nearly joined the 100-yard club, as senior Draiden McMinn ran 10 times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore Zack Tuttle had two second-half touchdowns for the visitors on the way to an 11-carry, 73-yard night.
The Kardinals were just as relentless on the defensive side of the ball, holding the Patriots to 141 yards in total offense (46 yards rushing and 95 yards passing).
“They’re really big kids,” said North Pole junior running back Lafi Skipps said of Kenai.
North Pole’s total offensive output Friday was considerably less than its 299 yards in last Saturday’s 33-12 loss at Lathrop, of the large-schools Railbelt Conference, and its 676 yards on Sept. 11 in a 52-48 home win over Kodiak, which also plays in the Northern Lights Conference.
Kardinals head coach John Marquez remembered before Friday’s game that Kenai had lost its last three games against North Pole since 2011.
“Zero and two up here and the semifinals last year because we couldn’t figure out their offense,’’ Marquez said.
“We just broke it up into individual jobs of what to watch for on certain things,’’ said Marquez, “and all 11 guys did their jobs and they (North Pole) couldn’t make a read.”
North Pole avoided the shutout with Camron Irwin’s 1-yard touchdown run and Eric Antesberger’s two-point conversion run with 1:10 left in the third quarter. The touchdown run for Irwin, a senior, was set up by quarterback Dew Rogers’ 44-yard pass to tight end Jeremiah Howe with third down and 10 yards to go from the Patriots 45-yard line.
Kenai went into halftime with a 25-0 lead, starting with quarterback Chase Gillies’ 9-yard run with 9:00 left in the first quarter. Welborn’s 5-yard run made it 12-0 at the 6-minute mark of the quarter.
McMinn added a 1-yard run with 11:55 left in the second quarter and Welborn’s 2-yard run and Marshall Vest’s point-after kick gave the Kardinals a 25-0 lead with 3:21 left in the first half.
A 1-yard run by Nick Beeson and another Vest point-after kick made it 32-0 for Kenai with 9:15 left and Tittle stretched the lead to 38-0 with an 8-yard dash with 3:08 left.
Tuttle later provided the game’s last touchdown with a 22-yard scamper and Vest followed with another PAT with 8:53 left in the fourth quarter.