PALMER — Why have a single featured back when you can have four of them?
Four Palmer running backs finished with at least 48 yards each to lead the Moose to a pivotal 21-7 Northern Lights Conference win over Kenai Central on Friday at Palmer High School.
The stable of Moose ball carriers helped Palmer improve to 3-4 overall, and most importantly, 3-1 in NLC play, a record that puts Palmer in prime position to earn one of the conference’s two postseason berths.
“We knew we had what it took to get to the playoffs,” Palmer senior Austin Farris said after the win. “We just worked as hard as we could.”
Larry Cutsforth (85 yards rushing), Jeff Glynn (68 yards), Nick DeBach (66 yards) and Jared Oviok (48 yards) combined for 267 yards rushing in the end. Farris said there’s currently no shortage of capable runners on the Palmer varsity squad.
“Honestly, it’s deeper, probably six,” Farris, a fullback on offense said. “We have so many kids who can run the ball. It’s amazing.”
The Moose used the balanced offensive attack to control the clock, and wear down the Kenai defense.
“It’s awesome. The defense doesn’t know who to key on. They’re always guessing,” Farris said. “And you’re always fresh. It’s a blessing.”
The Moose finished with 15 more offensive plays than Kenai, and twice as many as the Kards in the third quarter alone. Palmer used a pair of 65-yard scoring drives on its first two possessions of the second half to push its lead to 21-7.
It also helped the Moose answer Kenai’s touchdown late in the first half. With the Kards facing 3rd-and-26 at the tail end of the second quarter, Kards quarterback Avery Heiber was flushed out of the pocket and rolled to his right. Looking as if Heiber would tuck the ball way and run, Zack Tuttle found his way down the sideline. Heiber was able to make the throw down the sideline, and Tuttle hauled in the scoring pass to tie the game with 1:10 left in the first half.
Farris said the Moose wanted to make sure Tuttle’s late score didn’t demoralize Palmer.
“It could have been, maybe in the beginning of the season,” Farris said. “But right now, we’re so tightknit as a family, it’s incredible.”
Instead, Farris said, the Moose wanted to start the third quarter with a bang.
“We knew we got the ball back. We knew we needed to punch them in the mouth, and we got it done,” Farris said.
DeBach capped the first 65-yard drive of the second half with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Moose the 14-7 lead. The drive took more than four minutes off the clock.
On Palmer’s next drive, which started midway through the third and lasted two minutes into the fourth quarter, Oviok had a 10-yard touchdown run.
Clayton Southwick opened the scoring for Palmer with a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
While the win does not officially put Palmer into the playoffs, the Moose are likely to be part of the postseason.
One scenario could create a potential three-way tie at the top of the NLC. With Soldotna’s win over Eagle River on Saturday, if Kenai were to beat Soldotna next week at SoHi, a three-way tie would be forged. A SoHi win over Kenai means the Moose are in.
The Moose finished with more than 300 total yards in the victory. Kenai was held to 79 yards on the ground, and 80 through the air. Nearly half of Kenai’s passing yards came on Tuttle’s 37-yard touchdown grab. Chase Gillies finished with 71 of Kenai’s 159 total yards.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Palmer 21, Kenai 7
Palmer — Southwick 1 run (Cutsforth kick) 5:51.
Kenai — Tuttle 37 pass from Heiber (kick good) 1:10.
Palmer — DeBach 2 run (Cutsforth kick) 7:43.
Palmer — Oviok 10 run (Cutsforth kick) 10:06.
RUSHING — Kenai: Gillies 9-51, Heiber 7-6, Tuttle 5-22, Riddall 1-0; Palmer: Glynn 14-68, Cutsforth 12-85, DeBach 11-66, Oviok 6-48, Southwick 4-6, Witz 1-1.
PASSING — Kenai: Heiber 6-15-0—80; Palmer: Southwick 2-4-0—36.
RECEIVING — Kenai: Gillies 3-20, Tuttle 2-49, Riddall 1-11; Palmer: L. Farris 1-26, Hale 1-10.