The Kenai Central Kardinals opened their season Saturday afternoon with a 27-13 road loss to South Anchorage.
A touchdown run by senior quarterback Chase Gillies with just over two minutes remaining in the first half left Kenai with a 7-6 halftime lead, but the Wolverines came out attacking in the second half.
South scored twice in the third quarter to go up 20-7, but the Kards answered with a 5-yard pass from Gillies to Tuttle to close the gap to one possession with 8:26 left in the game.
However, South quarterback Jack Hanson capped the day with a scoring run with under two minutes to go that put the Wolverines up 27-13.
Kenai finished with just 14 team rushing yards. Gillies was the only one to gain positive yardage with 34 on eight carries, but it was the air in which the Kards found success.
Gillies went 9 of 17 for 115 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Zack Tuttle caught three passes, including a touchdown, for 58 yards.
Kenai will host another Anchorage team next Friday night when the Service Cougars come to Ed Hollier Field.
Valdez 38, Nikiski 20
The reigning Peninsula Conference champion Bulldogs were toppled by the Buccaneers in a season-opening road loss Saturday.
Senior back Patrick Perry rushed for two touchdowns and junior Tyler Olson scored another, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a slow start for Nikiski.
“It was a little bit tough, definitely disappointing,” said new Nikiski coach Paul Nelson. “They got a jump on us and scored quick. It was a tough go for us, but we regrouped at halftime and got better.”
Valdez led 24-6 at halftime, but Nikiski came back and equaled the Bucs with a 14-14 second-half effort. Nelson added that the biggest weakness he saw with the Bulldogs started with the outside rushing contain effort on defense. Valdez managed to break off on several big runs by finding space near the sides.
“We just dug ourselves too big a hole,” Nelson said. “It got too hard to climb out, and it’s the first game with the new staff and young team.”
Nelson praised senior running back Matthew Minium on a strong game on both sides of the ball.
Eielson 67, Homer 31
The Ravens pounded the Mariners in a nonconference season opener Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks.
“It was pretty disappointing overall,” said Homer coach Josh Fraley.
Teddy Croft, who racked up four touchdowns in the first half and five total, went out in the second half after a brutal hit. Fraley said he pulled Croft in order to follow concussion protocol.
To make matters worse, cramping took hold of receiver Noah Fisk, who missed much of the second half as well.
“I think it would’ve been a closer contest (if they stayed in),” Fraley said. “We also had some missed opportunities that they scored on.”
Croft finished with 264 total offensive yards — he threw three touchdowns for 130 yards and ran for two other scores while piling up 134 rushing yards.
Eielson took the lead for good with a 15-yard rumble by Jaydenn Manibusen early in the second quarter, which put the Ravens up 20-19. Jeremiah Brown led Eielson with 132 rushing yards.
With Croft out of the game, Fraley turned to senior Jaime Rios and junior Dawson Felde to lead the team.
Fisk opened the game with a touchdown catch, then Croft was off to the races on a 57-yard scramble to help Homer open up a 12-0 lead.
Another big scoring run by Croft, this one a 64-yard sprint, left the Mariners with a 19-6 lead with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter, but it would all be lost from there.
Eielson scored 33 points in the second quarter to take a 46-25 lead at halftime, even after Croft connected with Felde on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to cut the deficit to two points.
The closest the Mariners got from there was 46-31 in the third quarter, when Croft landed a 61-yard bomb into the hands of Joe Ravin. It would be soon after when Croft was taken out of the game.
Ketchikan 34, Seward 14
The Kings, of the medium-schools Southeast Conference, defeated the host Seahawks, of the small-schools Peninsula Conference, Saturday in Ketchikan.
Wolverines 27, Kardinals 13
Kenai 0 7 0 6 —13
South 6 0 14 7 —27
South — Kinnebrew 1 run (Stearns run failed), 1:05.
Ken — Gillies 9 run (Riddall kick), 2:24.
Sou — Kinnebrew 10 run (Houghton kick), 7:33.
Sou — Stokes 2 run (Houghton kick), 1:25.
Ken — Tuttle 5 pass from Gillies (Heiber pass failed), 8:26.
Sou — Hanson 1 run (Houghton kick), 1:55.
RUSHING — Kenai: Gillies 8-34, Heiber 1-(-3) Riddall 6-(-3), Tuttle 1-(-6),Baker 1-(-8). South: Kinnebrew 11-77, Stokes 15-66, Stearns 7-41, Benedict 10-35, Hanson 7-23, Bentz 1-8.
Passing — Kenai: Gillies 9-17-1–115. South: Hanson 4-11-0–38.
Receiving — Kenai: Tuttle 3-58, Dunham 2-22, Heiber 2-24, Landry 1-8, Riddall 2-3. South: Bentz 3-25, Kinnebrew 1-17.