The Kenai Central football team celebrated its homecoming at Ed Hollier Field by defeating Homer 29-8 in Mid Alaska Conference action.
The Kardinals move to 1-0 in the Mid Alaska Conference and 3-1 overall, while the Mariners fall to 1-1 in the league and 3-1 overall.
“We haven’t won a homecoming year every year I’ve played at Kenai, so it feels good,” said Kenai senior quarterback and safety Zeke Yragui, who threw two touchdown passes and also had an interception on defense.
Homer had burst from the gates with three blowout wins this season after winning the Division III state title last season. Mariners head coach Justin Zank said his team did not show up with the proper mind-set and paid the price.
“We got it taken to us offensively and defensively,” he said.
The Kardinals had 340 yards of total offense, including 233 on the ground. Homer had 210 yards of offense, with 104 on the ground. Kenai didn’t turn the ball over, while the Mariners turned it over four times.
“I’m so proud of this team, from making a plan, to studying the film, to practicing the plan, to accomplishing the plan,” Kenai head coach Jake Brand said. “I know people are going to get their names published, but this is really, 100 percent, a team effort.”
Brand said he respects Homer’s physicality, but he gave credit to his offensive coordinator, Blake Taplin, for drawing up an offensive plan that emphasized power running.
Kenai came out and scored on the opening drive on a 47-yard pass from Yragui to Bobby Hayes. Hayes would catch two touchdowns on the day and also run for a score and 125 yards on 16 carries.
William Wilson was also a big part of the power running game, going 23 times for 103 yards.
Kenai junior Makai Johansen, who had a fumble recovery, said the opening drive set the tone for the game.
“Our linemen had them beat in strength and size,” said Johansen, who played defensive line and wing.
Homer quarterback Preston Stanislaw is still dangerous, and he showed it by leading a drive he finished with a 6-yard run for an 8-7 lead with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
Stanislaw rushed 21 times for 56 yards and was 7 of 19 for 106 yards and two interceptions. Brand loved the way his defense battled against Stanislaw the whole game.
“No. 10 is a great quarterback,” Brand said. “I don’t say these things to scare my kids.
“It just, ‘Hey. Touchdowns and plays are going to be made. You’re capable of making a big play.’”
One of those big plays came in the second quarter, with Homer driving on the Kenai 35-yard line and holding an 8-7 lead. Stanislaw threw a backward pass and Cole Langham recovered for Kenai.
The Kards then went on a 12-play, 53-yard drive capped by a 5-yard pass from Yragui to Hayes with no time showing on the clock.
The pass was just over the outstretched hand of the safety and gave the Kards a 14-8 halftime lead.
“As soon as I let it go, I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ but then it went right over his hands,” Yragui said.
The Mariners never got any momentum back after the fumble and then allowing the score before half.
“Them scoring right before the half was huge,” Zank said.
Logan Myers, who played defensive end and halfback for Kenai, said that’s the way it felt on the field.
“First half, I think they were pretty good in there,” Myers said of Homer’s line play. “Second half, I think we took over.”
In the third quarter, Hayes had a 71-yard scoring run, while Yragui had an interception on Stanislaw.
In the fourth quarter, Johansen had his fumble recovery, Wilson had a 32-yard interception return for touchdown and Sawyer Vann had a 23-yard field goal.
Kenai stays in the conference and travels to Houston for a game at 7 p.m. Friday. The Hawks, who were upset by Homer in the Division II state title game last year, are 0-1 in the league and 3-1 overall.
“I’m expecting them to be big and physical,” Brand said of the Hawks. “Their main thing usually is pounding the rock and doing a couple passes.”
Homer hosts Palmer at 5 p.m. Friday. The game is nonconference, with the Moose playing in Division II.
“They’re gonna be tough, they’re gonna be physical and they’re gonna play solid defense,” Zank said. “We’ll be at home, which is good for us, but we gotta regroup.”
Kardinals 29, Mariners 8
Homer 8 0 0 0 —8
Kenai 7 7 6 9 —29
Ken — Hayes 47 pass from Yragui (Vann kick), 8:34.
Hom — Stanislaw 6 run (Tappan run), 3:25.
Ken — Hayes 5 pass from Yragui (Vann kick), :00.
Ken — Hayes 71 run (kick failed), 2:27.
Ken — Wilson 32 interception return (kick failed), 6:42.
Ken — Vann 23 field goal, 2:54.
First downs 12 15
Rushes-yards 34-104 52-233
Passing yards 106 107
Comp-att-int 7-19-2 5-9-0
Return yards 0 32
Punts 2-40.5 1-32
Fumbles 2-2 0-0
Penalties 11-71 10-75
Rushing — Homer: Stanislaw 21-56, Tappan 4-6, Martin 1-(-4), Martishev 5-24, N. Reutov 3-22. Kenai: Wilson 23-103, Hayes 16-125, Yragui 13-5.
Passing — Homer: Stanislaw 7-19-2—106; Kenai: Yragui 5-9-0—107.
Receiving — Homer: Martishev 3-44, M. Reutov 2-52, Martin 1-8, N. Reutov 1-2. Kenai: Hayes 2-52, Wilson 1-(-1), Vann 2-56.