The Kenai Central football program opened its 2018 season with a loss and a valuable test against a potential Division II playoff contender.
The Kardinals fell to new Division II rival Lathrop 49-21 Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks to drop to 0-1 to start the season. In all, peninsula teams endured a rough 0-5 start to the high school football season.
First-year head coach Dustin Akana said the Kardinals’ inexperience cost them at key moments, allowing the Malamutes to capitalize with scoring drives throughout the game.
“We’re young, both on offense and defense, we have guys that haven’t played a lot of varsity,” Akana said. “So today was a learning opportunity for coaching staff and players, especially those who haven’t played varsity before.
“We have only one way to go, and that’s up.”
Kenai junior Titus Riddall led the offense with 80 rush yards and two touchdowns, while second-year senior quarterback Connor Felchle hit 10 of 12 targets for 21 yards, and junior Kayden Daniels helped out with a touchdown pass on two passing attempts.
On the other side of the ball, Kenai had trouble stopping Lathrop’s Bubba Maschmeier, who rolled to 214 rush yards and scored three times, including an 80-yard kickoff return. Lathrop QB Jaden Littell was efficient with 13 of 17 passing for 142 yards.
After falling into a 14-0 hole, Kenai got on the board in the second quarter with Riddall’s punch-in from 1 yard out, capping a drive that included a key fourth-down conversion on an 8-yard catch by Justin Anderson.
Lathrop answered immediately with Maschmeier’s kickoff return, and Kenai came back with a scoring drive that ended with another Riddall run into the end zone, making it 21-12 after a failed two-point attempt.
Leading 28-12 at halftime, Lathrop iced the game with a scoring drive in the third quarter. After a Kenai field goal kick, Braedon Pitsch wrapped up the scoring with a touchdown catch in the final seconds.
On defense, Riddall had an interception and Bailey Maxson recorded one sack.
Barrow 40, Nikiski 8
The defending Division II champion Whalers opened a 12-0 lead at halftime and used a powerful second half to pound the Bulldogs in the season opener in Barrow.
Under sunny and warm skies, Nikiski head coach Paul Nelson said the Week 1 game was a useful tuneup to see where the Bulldogs’ weaknesses lie.
“Really, we were kind of outmanned,” Nelson said. “They have some big dudes, they’re tough and they play hard, and we just kind of wore out as the game went on.
“Defensively, it was hard for us to make tackles, so we have a little bit to do on conditioning to make up for that.”
Nelson said Nikiski opted to receive the opening kickoff, but were taken by surprise when Barrow went for the onside kick and recovered, leading to a Whalers touchdown on the first drive of the game.
From there, the Bulldogs held their own and moved the ball almost 60 yards on a six-minute drive down the field, but ultimately couldn’t convert on fourth down, handing the ball back to Barrow.
With three turnovers in the first half, Nelson said Nikiski wasn’t helping its case.
“They kind of caught us off-guard after that,” Nelson said. “We had a couple good stops on defense, some good drives, but we just couldn’t punch it in.”
Nelson said Nikiski put together another solid drive as halftime approached, but fumbled the ball away, leading to another Barrow scoring drive as the Whalers went up 12-0.
After running the score to 40-0, Nikiski finally got on the board in the final minute of the game on a Noah Litke touchdown pass to Cody Handley, who corralled in a throw from about 30 yards out to score. Litke found Sam Berry in the end zone for the ensuing two-point conversion.
Kodiak 56, Homer 15
The host Kodiak football team started fast in making quick work of Homer on Friday in a nonconference ballgame.
The Bears are a Division II school, but the Mariners are coming off a close loss in the Division III state championship game last season.
Kodiak scored on the opening drive, with senior Micah Bartel storming into the end zone on a 22-yard run. The drive marked a smashing debut for new Kodiak coach Bryan Ellsworth and his single-wing offense.
Ellsworth then further put his stamp on the game by calling for an onside kick and getting a recovery. Senior Kaleb Finley then scored on a 5-yard scamper for a 16-0 lead with 8:28 showing on the clock.
Bartel would end up scoring four times and amassing 264 yards on just eight carries. Finley scored twice and rushed for 109 yards on eight carries. Senior Corbit Brewer also scored for Kodiak on an 88-yard kick return, while sophomore Igan Galindez scored on an 11-yard run.
Junior Noah Fisk and sophomore Josh Bradshaw scored rushing touchdowns for Homer. Fisk led the Mariners with 75 yards on 18 carries.
Monroe 27, Seward 12
The Seahawks suffered a season-opening loss Saturday on home turf, falling to 0-1.
Seward head coach Kelly Cinereski pointed to the excess penalties that the Seahawks committed in the loss that “left 14 points on the table.”
“They had a good (offensive) line and we showed our youth,” explained Cinereski. “Right before the half, we were on the half-yard line and we fumbled the snap. Things like that.”
Beau Freiberg scored twice for Seward to record all 12 points, and also had a kickoff return called back on a holding call.
Cinereski praised the efforts of running backs Gabe Schrock and Chris Kingland, who had good carries of the ball.
“Overall the kids played well, but we’ve got some learning to do,” he said. “We think they did pretty well considering.”
MALAMUTES 49, KARDINALS 21
Kenai 0 12 3 6 —21
Lathrop 14 14 14 7 —49
Rushing — Kenai: Riddall 19-80, Anderson 15-51, Burnett 10-49, Felchle 1-(-3). Lathrop: Maschmeier 19-214.
Passing — Kenai: Felchle 10-12-0—21, Daniels 2-2-1—28. Lathrop: Littell 13-17-1—142.
Receiving — Kenai: Pitsch 2-28, Anderson 4-3, Carver 1-15, Burnett 2-3, Riddall 3-(-2). Lathrop: Mendez 8-97
BEARS 56, MARINERS 15
Homer 7 8 0 0 — 15
Kodiak 28 22 6 0 — 56
Kod — Bartel 22 run (Finley run), 9;47
Kod — Finley 5 run (Bartel run), 8:28
Kod — Bartel 79 run (kick failed), 3:24
Hom — Fisk 8 run (Gaona kick), 2:06
Kod — Brewer 88 kick return (run failed), 1:47
Kod — Galindez 11 run (Finley run), 11:56
Hom — Bradshaw 2 run (Fisk run), 5:12
Kod — Finley 50 run (Shin kick), 3:14
Kod — Bartel 48 run (Godsey kick), :50
Kod — Bartel 74 run (kick failed), 7:19
First downs 5 6
Rushing 37-89 29-433
Comp-att-int 2-9-0 1-2-0
Passing yards 28 11
Totals yards 117 444
Punts 5 0
Fumbles-lost 4-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-40 7-60
Rushing — Homer: Fisk 18-75, Brandshaw 5-9, Kalugin 12-9, Hrencher 1-(-1), Morawitz 1-(-3). Kodiak: Finley 8-109, Bartel 8-264, Brewer 2-11, Galindez 5-40, Sabangan 1-(-6), n/a 1-8, Shin 2-3, DeMucha 2-4.
Passing — Homer: Kalugin 2-9-0-0 — 28. Kodiak: Finley 1-2-0-0 — 11.
Receiving — Homer: Hrencher 1-24, Fisk 1-4. Kodiak: Galindez 1-11.