Kenai Central football put itself into the winning column this year with a 46-18 Northern Lights Conference victory over the Kodiak Bears, Saturday morning in Kodiak.
Led by a fearsome rushing attack that compiled 249 yards, nearly all of them by four players, the Kards took off in the third quarter by outscoring Kodiak 21-6.
“We made some second half adjustments, we were executing our run game and taking advantage of Kodiak’s defensive schemes,” said Kenai coach John Marquez. “It feels good, especially as a conference game, there’s playoff implications, and the boys came out and played at their best.”
Kenai stands at 1-1 overall (1-0 NLC) for the year, while Kodiak took its first loss and dropped to 2-1 overall (1-1 NLC).
The Kenai defense played a crucial role in the win, forcing Kodiak into five turnovers that led to three scoring drives.
Kenai led 19-12 at halftime, thanks to two touchdowns runs by Zach Tuttle of 5 and 37 yards — the latter coming with 56 seconds left in the half — and a four-yard run by Draiden McMinn. Tuttle led the Kards with 92 ground yards on five carries, while McMinn took 15 carries to 88 yards.
A 13-yard scamper by Gillies early in the third quarter put the Kards up two touchdowns, but the Bears responded less than four minutes later with an aerial strike from Carros, connecting with Wietfeld on a 15-yard pass with 4:24 left in the quarter to cut the gap to 26-18.
However, Tuttle stopped the Bears in their tracks on the ensuing kickoff, returning the ball 80 yards to the house to put Kenai ahead 33-18.
“Tuttle was huge for us, but it was good to see a number of guys make plays,” Marquez said.
Marquez praised the Kenai defense, which limited Kodiak quarterback Andreas Carros to 9 of 25 passing for 79 yards and two picks. Carros had two touchdowns, one through the air and another on the ground, a 33-yard burst on Kodiak’s opening possession in the first quarter.
“He really tested our defense, and a team that throws the ball that much makes you make plays,” Marquez said. “Our D line played lights out in the second half.”
Kenai will return home for a Friday night date against Houston at Ed Hollier Field.
Soldotna 72, Service 29
The Stars continued their early season romp through the large schools division with a dominant victory over the Cougars Saturday afternoon in Anchorage.
Soldotna improved to 3-0 overall in 2015, all wins coming over large-school opponents. The win also extended SoHi’s state-record string of wins to 32 consecutive.
SoHi running back Kristian Palaniuk picked up where he left off last week against Colony with a five-touchdown day, and Soldotna quarterback Dylan Simons made big strides in his first year as a SoHi player by tossing three scoring passes. Simons also grabbed an interception off the opposing quarterback Mark Hogan.
“Our guys didn’t panic, they made some plays early, and we made adjustments to the speed of some of (Service’s) athletes,” said Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. “Eventually, they broke and we put some points on them.”
The Stars twice found themselves in an early deficit, but after adjusting to the speed and athleticism of the Service receiving core, SoHi began to clamp down and feast on the Cougars.
“It’s certainly not something we’re used to,” Brantley Jr. said about the speed of the Service offense. “They have some dynamic athletes and are committed to throwing the ball.”
With 2:30 to go in the opening quarter of play, Hogan connected with Nathan Fromm that put the Cougars up 15-10 after a two-point run. Fromm and Hogan combined for all four of Service’s touchdowns, including a 69-yard bomb on the first play of the game that gave Service the early lead.
However, SoHi’s powerful offense responded with a scoring drive that ended with Keola Finau finding the endzone on a go-ahead 20-yard run that propelled SoHi to a 17-15 lead with just 10 ticks left in the quarter.
SoHi linebacker Sage Hill then set up a quick sequence of events with a forced fumble recovery on Service’s own 35-yard line early in the second quarter. The turnover led to a 20-yard touchdown run by Palaniuk, and the ensuing two-point run by Mason Prior put the Stars up 25-15 with almost 10 minutes to play in the first half.
After Service gave the ball up on fourth down, Finau scored again on a 12-yard scamper with 6:34 left in the second quarter, and the rout was on from there.
Aseli Finau got in on the action with an onside kick recovery, setting up a 40-yard touchdown strike from Simons to a wide-open Trevor Walden on the first play of the drive. SoHi continued to stretch its lead to 30 points with 3:36 to go in the half on another touchdown run by Palaniuk, which was aided by a well-time block from Sage Hill.
At halftime, the Stars held a monstrous 52-21 lead thanks to the 35-point swing, and had outscored Service 35-6 in the second quarter.
Overall, SoHi scored on each of its first nine possessions before giving the ball away on a late fumble. Five different players recorded a touchdown (Palaniuk, Finau, Walden, Jace Urban and Austin Schrader), and Blake Jones added a 27-yard field goal to boot.
Service refused to pack up in the second half, as the Hogan-Fromm connection continued to feed on the Soldotna defensive backfield. Fromm caught a 10-yard pass in the third quarter to close the gap to 59-29, but that would be all the Cougars offense could muster. A running clock was utilized in the fourth quarter.
Brantley Jr. commended the efforts of the SoHi front line, which created the openings that the backfield needed.
“They filled the box up with nine players, and our kids up front were still able to move guys out of the way and create running lanes,” he said.
Kardinals 46, Bears 18
Kenai 13 6 21 6 —46
Kodiak 6 6 6 0 —18
Kod — Carros 33 run (kick failed), 10:50
Ken — McMinn 4 run (pass failed), 5:47
Ken — Tuttle 5 run (Vest kick), 3:50
Kod — Miranda 12 run (kick blocked), 5:57
Ken — Tuttle 37 run (kick failed), 0:56
Ken — Gillies 13 run (Vest kick), 8:09
Kod — Wietfeld 15 pass from Carros (pass failed), 4:24
Ken — Tuttle 80 kick return (Vest kick), 4:12
Ken — Beeson 11 run (Vest kick), 1:57
Ken — Johnson 16 pass from Steiff (kick failed), 8:31
First downs 10 11
Rushes-yards 48-249 39-178
Passing yards 16 79
Comp-att-int 1-2-0 9-25-2
Punts 2 2
Fumbles-lost 4-2 4-3
Penalties 11-80 1-5
Rushing: Kenai: McMinn 15-88, Gillies 11-51, Beeson 8-31, Tuttle 5-92, Steiff 4-(-10), Ivy 3-2, Heiber 1-(-7), No. 25 1-2. Kodiak: Miranda 13-92, Carros 15-75, Sega 4-11.
Passing: Kenai: Steiff 1-2-0—16. Kodiak: Carros 9-25-2—79.
Receiving: Kenai: Johnson 1-16. Kodiak: Sega 1-(-3), Orille 2-9, Martinez 3-41, Walker 1-4, Wietfeld 2-25.
Stars 72, Cougars 29
Soldotna 17 35 14 6 —72
Service 15 6 8 0 —29
Ser — Fromm 69 pass from Hogan (kick good), 11:44
Sol — Palaniuk 41 run (Jones kick), 9:55
Sol — Jones 27 FG, 4:55
Ser — Froom pass from Hogan (2-pt run), 2:30
Sol — Finau 20 run (Jones kick), :10
Sol — Palaniuk 20 run (Prior run), 9:45
Sol — Finau 12 run (Jones kick), 6:34
Sol — Walden 40 pass from Simons (Jones kick), 6:22
Sol — Palaniuk 12 run (Smithwick kick), 3:36
Ser — Fromm 61 pass from Hogan (kick good), 2:03
Sol — Urban 17 pass from Simons (Smithwick kick), :35
Sol — Palaniuk 45 pass from Simons (Smithwick kick), 8:36
Ser — Fromm 10 pass from Hogan (2-pt run), 6:20
Sol — Palaniuk 13 run (Smithwick kick), :54
Sol — Schrader 3 run (knee taken), 3:15