Week 3: Coaching titans set to clash

The Soldotna football team comes into tonight’s nonconference home game against West Valley having punted zero times and having blocked two punts in the first two weeks of the season.

The Stars, after getting dominant road victories over North Pole and Service, play for the first time this season at Justin Maile Field at 6 p.m.

Coach Galen Brantley Jr. said West Valley, which lost to Chugiak and defeated Eielson, has several great athletes and a great coach in David DeVaughn. DeVaughn won five state championships when he was coaching at Eielson.

“Whatever he’s got, he’ll be able to get the most out of them,” Brantley Jr. said of DeVaughn.

Brantley Jr. counters with 11 state titles as a head coach.

The Stars are rolling after topping Service 54-14 in Week 2. Quarterback Brayden Taylor had two touchdown runs and two touchdown passes, and also made two interceptions on defense.

“It goes to show his versatility,” Brantley Jr. said. “He’s a pretty special player. I thought he was great on both sides of the ball.”

The coach also said he liked what he saw from Wyatt Faircloth at linebacker. Zac Buckbee showed his versatility as well, playing defensive back, and halfback and quarterback on offense.

“He’s such a good athlete, we have to figure out ways to get him on the field,” Brantley Jr. said of Buckbee.

The coach credited assistant Phil Leck for the scouting that led to blocked punts.

As for the Stars punting?

“We practice it a lot, because it’s going to happen at some point,” Brantley Jr. said.

Eielson at Nikiski, 2:30 p.m. Saturday

The Bulldogs, at 1-1 overall, face the Ravens (0-2) in the Denali Conference opener.

In a 32-22 victory at Seward in Week 2, Nikiski was able to overcome injuries and rain that had both teams fumbling frequently.

“The football was more like a greased pig for both sides,” Nikiski coach Matt Trammell said.

Dwyght Mullins had four rushing touchdowns to carry the Bulldogs in a game in which center Corbin Reichert, quarterback Braeden Porter and running back Truit McCaughey all went down to injury.

Trammell also gave credit to backup quarterback Ethan Ellis for big plays in the second half, including a key fourth-down conversion to Oliver Parrish.

“We grinded this one out,” Trammell said. “Of course, we want to win by 40 points. But we withstood the injuries and conditions, and an ugly game is a good thing to have under our belts.”

Although none of the injuries will keep players out for a long time, Trammell said early in the week he wasn’t sure who will play.

The coach said the Eielson game is key because there aren’t many conference games and only one from the conference qualifies for the playoffs. He said Seward got most of its yards outside, and the Ravens also attack the outside of the field.

“We’re not looking past them,” Trammell said. “They have the ability to hurt us.”

Seward at Homer, 6 p.m. Friday

Both the Mariners (1-1) and Seahawks took big losses to Houston this season — Homer 46-0 and Seward 45-0.

Homer coach Justin Zank said the score against the Hawks was 7-0 with 6 minutes left until halftime.

“We just couldn’t get anything going on offense,” he said. “We had our shots.”

Zank said the defense played really well. He said the goal was to match the hard-hitting intensity of Houston, and the defense did that.

Against Seward, Zank would like to see the offense get back on track. Starting quarterback Carter Tennison will be back for the first time this season after sitting out the first two games due to a knee injury.

The coach said inside linebacker Bernie Black led the team in tackles against Houston, but Zank added the perimeter defenders must play better against Seward’s attack.

The bad news for the Seahawks is their offense has fumbled constantly in the first two weeks of the season. The good news is Seward has yet to play a conference game and still has time to fix the problem.

“Last year, we started out with a conference game and that’s not always a good deal when you have a young team,” coach Tyler Mallory said. “This year, we have a few weeks to build and get better.”

In between the turnovers, Mallory said Gideon Schrock was able to get to the edge and score three times against Nikiski.

On defense, Mallory said John Van Buskirk was constantly blowing up plays at nose tackle. The coach also said Noah Price read Nikiski’s offense well at linebacker.

Kenai at Palmer, 7 p.m. Friday

For the second week in a row, the Division III Kardinals (1-1) face a Division II opponent.

In Week 2, Kenai coach Jake Brand was happy with the way his team played in a 35-13 loss to North Pole at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.

After the game, Brand said Palmer will be another big, hard-hitting team.

The coach said playing Division II schools is always tough for Division III teams, because Division III teams like to run the ball, and the big defensive lines of Division II teams make that tough.

That said, Brand still wants a win.

“You’re never happy with a loss, because you know how much it disappoints the kids to lose,” Brand said.

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