When Kenai Central’s first-year head football coach Davis Lowery hopped the boat from Kodiak this summer, it was only a matter of time before a new tradition began.
As with any good thing that typically starts, a bet was soon formed between Lowery and Kodiak head coach Bill McGuire.
“We started a conversation on who has the better salmon fishing,” Lowery explained. “I ended it by saying, ‘I bet you a football game over it.’”
Thus was born the first annual playing of the “Salmon Bowl.”
Kenai was the one standing with the homemade trophy high over its head after the first game of the Salmon Bowl series with a convincing 30-6 victory over Kodiak on a gorgeous fall Saturday afternoon at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. The trophy resembles a cross between a fish and a football.
“It’s nice to have this between us,” Lowery said. “It’s a friendly thing.”
Kenai got off to a fast start with 14 first-quarter points, then got down to business on defense. The Kardinals forced Kodiak to punt seven times, including five straight possessions spanning the second and third quarters. Ultimately, the Bears finished with only 98 total offensive yards, while Kenai amassed 360 total yards.
Leading the charge was junior Zack Tuttle, who scored twice on the ground en route to 174 yards of offense — 97 rushing and 77 receiving yards. Tuttle also had a thundering 80-yard punt return called back on a penalty.
Both of Tuttle’s touchdowns came on the opening two drives in the first quarter, when Kenai quickly built a 14-0 lead by utilizing a fast, no-huddle approach. On their opening possession, the Kards traveled 31 yards in five plays, and on the second series, Kenai went 35 yards on seven plays, using a combination of Tuttle runs through the middle and Gillies throws to the flats.
“We drew up those two series’ yesterday,” Lowery stated. “We went no-huddle, we had those plays all drawn up, and fortunately for us, it worked out.”
Senior quarterback Chase Gillies hit 17 of 27 targets for 150 yards and an interception.
After several possessions that fizzled out to punts, Kenai took a big risk late in the second quarter to gain some momentum. Facing third and 7 from their own 21, the Kards used an option pitch from Gillies to Riddall, who tossed up a 41-yard bomb that landed in the lap of Tuttle in Bears territory.
Ultimately, the drive ended when Tuttle’s field-goal attempt was blocked, sending Kenai into the locker room with a 14-0 lead.
Kodiak attempted an onside kick to begin the second half, but failed. The Kards seized the momentum by dragging out a 13-play drive that burned up more than seven minutes of the clock and ended with a 1-yard shove into the end zone by Rykker Riddall. Riddall finished the day with 63 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards.
Kodiak’s lone touchdown came on the first play of the fourth quarter. Gillies rolled out to his left and located a receiver, but his pass only made it halfway there before linebacker Kaleb Finley picked it out of the air and ran it back 72 yards to the end zone.
Tuttle kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7:25 left to extend the Kenai lead to 23-6, then the Kardinals defense finished the game with two straight interceptions. Gillies picked off Kodiak signal-caller Andreas Carros with 6:22 to play, then Nick Beeson returned an interception 40 yards for a pick-six with nine seconds left in the game.
Kardinals 30, Bears 6
Kodiak 0 0 0 6 —6
Kenai 14 0 6 10 —30
Ken — Tuttle 4 run (Tuttle kick), 8:37
Ken — Tuttle 6 run (Tuttle kick), 4:28
Ken — Riddall 1 run (kick miss), 4:57
Kod — Finley 72 interception return (kick blocked), 11:46
Ken — Tuttle 25 FG, 7:25
Ken — Beeson 40 interception return (Tuttle kick), :09
First downs 4 18
Rushing yards 15-30 44-169
Pass yards 68 191
Comp-Att-Int 18-28-1 8-18-2
Return yards 85 71
Punts 7 5
Fumbles 1-0 0-0
Penalties 3-30 8-55
Rushing — Kenai: Tuttle 15-97, Riddall 19-63, Gillies 6-(-5), Siamani 1-0, Beeson 3-14. Kodiak: Carros 6-17, Miranda 4-3, Finley 3-2, Galindez 1-4, Sega 1-4.
Passing — Kenai: Gillies 17-27—150-1, Riddall 1-1—41-0. Kodiak: Carros 8-18—68-2.
Receiving — Kenai: Tuttle 6-77, Siamani 3-52, Riddall 5-25, Heiber 3-23, Dunham 1-10, Landry 1-4. Kodiak: Walton 4-37, Finley 2-21, Brewer 1-12, Galindez 1-(-2).