Kenai quarterback Connor Felchle winds up for a pass Saturday against North Pole at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai quarterback Connor Felchle winds up for a pass Saturday against North Pole at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai defense runs rampant in win over North Pole

One by one on Saturday afternoon, the Kenai Central defense picked off North Pole quarterback Chris Lovett like daisies in a meadow, and before long, the Kardinals were celebrating a big victory on Ed Hollier Field.

The Kenai football team raced to a convincing 64-18 nonconference win over North Pole on Saturday afternoon in Kenai, lifting their record to 2-2 overall.

The Kards defense exploded for four interception returns for touchdowns in a dizzying first-half display that saw the defense outscore the offense.

In all, the Patriots had four of their first seven possessions end with a Kenai player returning a pick for a touchdown.

“We preach to our boys to trust your technique and trust your reads,” said Kenai head coach Dustin Akana. “We were A-plus in practice this week.”

Junior Titus Riddall opened the scoring on Kenai’s first drive of the game with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone, but from there, the Kenai defense scored 24 of the next 30 points in the first 14 minutes, 21 seconds, of game time. Overall, the Kardinals defense accounted for four of the team’s first six touchdowns.

“It all comes down to how we practice,” said Kardinals quarterback Connor Felchle, who brought back an interception himself. “We came in focused, and our scout team helped us, they ran North Pole’s plays this week and we knew what we were gonna get.”

Felchle capped his day under center 4 for 5 with a touchdown pass and 45 yards, backing up a Kenai run game that amassed 225 rushing yards.

Titus Riddall led the offensive attack with 74 yards and two touchdown runs, and Joe Sylvester added 78 with a touchdown.

Overall, Kenai outgained North Pole 270-234.

The craziness started with Zach Burnett’s 60-yard grab and go with 5:03 left in the first quarter to put Kenai up 16-0.

After Kenai’s next possession ended in a Riddall scoring run, Joe Sylvester returned a 42-yard pick for a 30-0 Kards lead.

Tucker Vann was next to get in on the action in the first minute of the second quarter, wrestling a catch away from a North Pole receiver and sprinting 70 yards the other way.

Finally, just two Pats snaps later, Felchle returned a 40-yard interception to put Kenai ahead 45-6 with 9:39 left in the half, and all with just two offensive touchdowns.

“It was man coverage, my guy stopped and turned, and when he did, I looked up for the throw,” Felchle explained. “(Pitsch) actually tipped it up and I just caught it and ran with it.”

Patriots QB Lovett finished the afternoon with six picks on 6-for-22 efficiency and 52 yards. North Pole coach Dennis Diviney said Lovett’s day looks worse than it would have because the Pats were missing seven starters, most of them to injury.

“I’m really proud of what they did,” Diviney said. “Without all those defensive points, it would’ve been about a two-score game.”

The Kards also dodged a bullet Saturday by not having to face North Pole’s most potent player in Bradley Antesberger, who missed Saturday recovering from an injury that was aggravated in a loss to South Anchorage the previous weekend. Antesberger was able to grind out 358 yards of offense last week against South.

The Kards still had to deal with North Pole junior Khoby Davis, who rolled to 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns Saturday.

“He really stepped up and showed me something today,” Diviney said.

After Kenai’s defense finally ran out of points, things settled down until the final drive of the first half, a 51-yard, six-play possession that ended with a short scoring pass from Felchle to Pitsch on a slant with just 22 seconds before the break.

Kenai led 52-6 at the half, but a desperate North Pole team successfully recovered an onside kick to begin the second half.

However, that drive was short-lived, as Riddall hauled in the sixth Kenai pick of the day at the Kardinals’ own 25-yard line.

Davis and Lovett both kicked in touchdown runs for North Pole in the second half, both against Kenai’s second-string defense.

Saturday at Kenai

KARDINALS 64, PATRIOTS 18

North Pole 6 0 6 6 —18

Kenai 30 22 6 6 —64

1st Quarter

Ken — Riddall 1 run (Felchle run), 8:39

Ken — Burnett 60 interception return (Riddall pass from Felchle), 5:03

Ken — Riddall 9 run (McKibben kick), 2:18

Ken — Sylvester 42 interception return (McKibben kick), 1:30

NP — Davis 1 run (run failed), :15

2nd Quarter

Ken — Vann 70 interception return (Riddall pass from Daniels), 11:16

Ken — Felchle 40 interception return (McKibben kick), 9:39

Ken — Pitsch 2 pass from Felchle (McKibben kick), :22

3rd Quarter

NP — Davis 29 run (kick failed), 4:50

Ken — Sylvester 51 run (pass failed), 3:57

4th Quarter

NP — Lovett 9 run (pass failed), 9:19

Ken — Vann 57 run (no kick), :00

NP Ken

First downs 13 8

Rush yds 42-182 26-225

Pass yds 52 45

Comp-att-int 6-22-6 5-6-0

Return yds 117 210

Punts 3-35 2-40.5

Fumbles-rec 1-1 0-0

Penalties 5-30 8-73

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing — Kenai: Sylvester 5-78, Riddall 11-74, Burnett 6-11, Vann 2-62, Baker 2-0. North Pole: Davis 20-136, Lewellyn 3-4, Berrellez 5-2, Lovett 10-34, Edwin 3-6, Ash 1-0.

Passing — Kenai: Felchle 4-5-1—45, Daniels 0-1-0—0. North Pole: Lovett 6-22-0—52.

Receiving — Kenai: McKibben 2-32, Pitsch 1-2, Kroto 1-11. North Pole: Massey 1-28, Sanchez 2-18, Peters 1-4, Stead 1-2, Edwin 1-0.

Kenai junior Titus Riddall (22) sheds a tackle by North Pole’s John Vaieli Saturday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai junior Titus Riddall (22) sheds a tackle by North Pole’s John Vaieli Saturday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Zach Burnett celebrates a touchdown with teammates Connor Felchle (3) and Joe Sylvester (34) Saturday against North Pole at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai’s Zach Burnett celebrates a touchdown with teammates Connor Felchle (3) and Joe Sylvester (34) Saturday against North Pole at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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