Things got out of hand pretty quickly Friday night at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai, but it was just what the Kenai Central football team wanted.
Finally back on the field after a two-week layoff due to an injury, Kenai running back Andrew Welborn took the opening handoff 68 yards to the house to quickly give Kenai the lead over the Houston Hawks in a nonconference matchup. Once they started scoring, the Kardinals found it hard to stop.
Ultimately, Kenai picked up a 63-6 victory over Houston. The rout eventually led to a running clock in the second half, helping the contest to wrap up in a speedy hour and 45 minutes.
Welborn rekindled a lingering injury that resulted in a deep thigh bruise in Kenai’s season opener against Bartlett and was forced to sit and watch as the Golden Bears ran rampant in the second half en route to the win. After a Week 2 bye, Welborn sat out again as Kenai rode the ferry to Kodiak last week and grabbed a Northern Lights Conference victory before shipping back home on a 31-hour ride.
Kenai coach John Marquez noted that Welborn’s absence made a difference, especially against the tough Bartlett matchup, but with the senior back in the mix, the Kenai backfield flourished.
“You get Andrew back in the mix, and he takes it (68) yards to the house,” Marquez said. “He’s been out for the last two weeks, and he’s practiced every day with the team. Nothing missed.”
Friday night, Welborn only took four handoffs all game from quarterback Corbin Streiff, but racked up 132 rushing yard and a pair of touchdowns.
“I felt a little behind on defense, my first steps were a little slow,” Welborn said. “I felt good on offense, my line did it for me.”
Amazingly, Kenai recorded 26 total offensive plays, but gained 304 yards, averaging 11.7 yards per snap, and all but one of Kenai’s 10 possessions lasted four plays or less.
The win boosted Kenai’s overall season record to 2-1, while Houston dropped to 2-2.
After Welborn’s opening 68-yard dash, the Kardinals successfully converted an onside kick, and it was right back to the end zone for Welborn, who raced 44 yards for a second consecutive touchdown.
After Houston fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Kenai scored again on a 3-yard burst by Nick Beeson. At that point, the Kards had racked up 115 yards on three plays from scrimmage — all touchdowns — with only 46 seconds off the clock.
“Our coach always tells us to play four quarters of Kenai football,” Welborn said. “We just love the game of football, so we have fun and run the ball hard.”
Houston went three and out and had to punt on its first real possession of the game, and seconds later, the Kardinals offensive line paved the way for Zack Tuttle to score from 40 yards out. Tuttle finished with 52 yards on five carries.
Before the first three minutes were up, Kenai held a 28-0 lead.
Welborn praised linemen Zach Koziczkowski, Toby Randall, Jonathan Delgado, Royal Brown and David Beck for creating the necessary gaps to pick up yards, and it was their efforts that stymied the Hawks time and time again.
“We pride ourselves in our (offensive) linemen, they work hard every day,” Welborn said. “They’re our workhorses, and our job was making sure we hit the holes they provide.”
Marquez said he preaches the three “Ds” to his team: discipline, dedication and determination.
“We came out ready to play, and we executed,” Marquez said. “We have big boys, and we match up with the best of them.”
Kenai scored on six of its first seven possessions, with an interception from Streiff the only blemish on the record. However, Kenai bounced back again with an 86-yard scamper from Chase Gillies that put the Kards up 35-0 with 1:52 still to play in the first quarter.
Kenai led 56-0 at halftime, leading both head coaches to mutually agree to a running clock. Marquez opened the second half with his starting lineup, but pulled them for his backups after Draiden McMinn cut right up the middle from 7 yards out to score a little over four minutes into the third quarter.
Houston quarterback Kolby Taylor completed 9 of 18 passes for 78 yards, and added a rushing touchdown as well, faking a handoff and skittering along the right side of the line to put Houston on the board with just over 10 minutes left in the game. The touchdown capped a 12-play drive that covered 66 yards.
The Kardinals defense took advantage of Taylor’s missteps with interceptions by Gillies, Keith Ivy, Marshall Vest and Avery Hieber, who returned a pick 42 yards to the end zone midway through the second quarter. Streiff also came up with a fumble recovery, and Koziczkowski scored his first touchdown of the year with a fumble recovery in the Houston end zone late in the first quarter.
Kardinals 63, Hawks 6
Houston 0 0 0 6 —6
Kenai 42 14 7 0 —63
Ken — Welborn 68 run (Vest kick), 11:42
Ken — Welborn 44 run (Vest kick), 11:28
Ken — Beeson 3 run (Vest kick), 11:14
Ken — Tuttle 40 run (Vest kick), 9:11
Ken — Gillies 86 run (Vest kick), 1:52
Ken — Koziczkowski 0 fumble recovery (Vest kick), :23
Ken — McMinn 5 run (Vest kick), 8:32
Ken — Hieber 42 interception return (Vest kick) 7:26
Ken — McMinn 7 run (Vest kick), 7:45
Hou — Taylor 4 run (run failed), 10:20
First downs 8 3
Rushes-yards 29-27 25-304
Passing yards 78 0
Comp-att-int 9-19-4 0-1-1
Punts 3 0
Fumbles-lost 5-2 0-0
Penalties-yds 0-0 2-18
Rushing — Kenai: Welborn 4-132, Beeson 2-7, Tuttle 5-52, McMinn 6-28, Gillies 1-86, McEnerney 2-5, Ivy 2-(-7), Strieff 1-(-5), Dunham 2-6. Houston: Griffeth 12-26, Pelesasa 7-21, Jirik 4-(-16), Kroegan 1-(-1), Taylor 4-(-4), Ruta 1-1.
Passing — Kenai: Strieff 0-1-1—0. Houston: Taylor 9-18-3—78, Ritter 0-1-1—0.