The anticipated shootout turned into a blowout.
AJ Hull tossed three touchdowns, rushed for two and returned an interception 92 yards for another, and the Kenai Central football team dismantled host Skyview 48-7 in Northern Lights Conference action Saturday.
On an afternoon when many anticipated a high-scoring affair between two potent offenses, it was the Kardinals who stole the show.
"It gives us a lot of momentum," said first-year Kenai Central coach John Marquez, who saw his squad improve to 2-0. "We're going to enjoy this tonight, but it's all about looking forward and focusing on the next game."
Both squads entered the contest having posted impressive offensive numbers in Week 1 victories.
Skyview (1-1 overall, 0-1 NLC) used 121 Albert White receiving yards to defeat Wasilla 32-20 in its opener. Hull accounted for five scores in the Kards' 42-22, season-opening triumph over Eielson.
Saturday, it was more of the same for Hull, who completed 8 of 16 passes for 212 yards, rushed for 94 yards and tallied a defensive score for the second time in as many games.
Meanwhile, Skyview fell apart.
"We let some opportunities slip away and made mental mistakes," coach Eric Pomerleau said. "We created some opportunities for them, and they capitalized on those opportunities."
Skyview was efficient in the first quarter.
After Hull intercepted a Jordan Jones pass on the game's opening drive, the Panthers took a 7-0 lead on a Jones pass to Richard Reynolds from 24 yards out on fourth-and-11.
That capped a 73-yard drive in which Jones completed 4 of 6 passes, accounting for all the yards. It also capped the good news for Jones, who finished 11 of 35 with three interceptions.
Kenai Central evened the score on a 3-yard plunge from Hull early in the second quarter and made adjustments on both sides of the ball to gain the momentum.
The Kards shadowed Panthers running back Jason Suonvieri with a middle linebacker on nearly every down, taking away the ground attack and forcing Jones to make plays.
The right-handed quarterback was flushed out of the pocket all afternoon, forcing the ball into traffic and completing just 7 of his final 28 passes.
Suonvieri, who rushed 30 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Wasilla, was held to 28 yards on 16 carries.
"We wanted to make their quarterback beat us," Marquez said. "After that first quarter, we turned up the heat and forced him to make tough decisions."
On the other side, Hull made it look easy.
The senior gave his team a 14-7 lead with an 18-yard scamper late in the second. He then hit Ethan Oliver from 15 yards out on the final play of the first half, giving the Kards a 21-7 lead.
Any chance of a close game was eliminated early in the third when Levi Hansen bumped the score to 27-7 with a 25-yard touchdown run to the right. On Skyview's ensuing drive,
Hull grabbed his second interception and returned it 92 yards for a 33-7 lead.
Hull said it took the defense a quarter-plus to figure out Skyview's offense.
"We had a defensive error by the secondary on their touchdown," Hull said. "It took us until the middle of the second quarter to get it."
Oliver got behind the Skyview defense midway through the third and Hull found him open in the end zone from 48 yards out, making it 41-7.
Oliver scored a third touchdown in the fourth, sneaking behind the secondary again and hauling in a 31-yard strike. The speedy receiver finished with 100 receiving yards.
Marquez said the Kards are at their best when they receive significant contributions from role players such as Oliver.
"AJ is AJ - he's going to give us what we want every week," Marquez said. "But don't forget about those other guys."
What doomed the Panthers was their inability to run the ball, finishing with 17 yards on 22 carries. That forced Jones to throw the ball 35 times.
Kyle Pietro led Skyview with 56 receiving yards, while Reynolds added 52. But Albert White, the area's leading receiver in 2010, managed just 12 yards on two catches.
Kenai Central junior Alex Nason said midweek preparations paid dividends for the defense.
"Just studying tape all week long, we knew what to do," Nason said.
The Panthers, who committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, will look to regroup at Kodiak on Saturday. The Kards, who had 12 penalties for 107 yards, host Wasilla at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Kardinals 48, Panthers 7
Kenai 0 21 20 7 -48
Skyview 7 0 0 0 -7
(Times are estimates because scoreboard was off)
Sky - Reynolds 24 pass from Jones (Jones kick), 8:30.
Ken - Hull 3 run (Wagoner kick), 9:00.
Ken - Hull 18 run (Wagoner kick), 2:00.
Ken - Oliver 15 pass from Hull (Wagoner kick), 0:00.
Ken - Hansen 25 run (kick failed), 10:00.
Ken - Hull 92 interception return (kick failed), 7:00.
Ken - Oliver 48 pass from Hull (Hull run), 4:30.
Ken - Oliver 31 pass from Hull (Wagoner kick), 10:00.
First downs 11 9
Rushes-yards 34-165 22-17
Passing yards 212 142
Passing 8-16-1 11-35-3
Punts-avg 3-31.7 6-26.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-0
Penalties-yards 12-107 11-100
Rushing - Ken: Hansen 5-42, Hull 17-94, G. Mendenhall 5-9, Sandahl 7-20. Sky: Suonvieri 16-28, Jones 4-6, Williams 2-(-17).
Passing - Ken: Hull 8-16-1-212. Sky: Jones 11-35-3-142.
Receiving - Ken: Oliver 4-100, Fitzpatrick 3-67, Hansen 1-45. Sky: White 2-12, Reynolds 3-52, Pietro 3-56, Williams 2-24.