Soldotna, Homer football prepare for physical contest

Soldotna quarterback Noah Fowler will try to stay out of Homer’s hands Friday night at SoHi.

In the documentary series "America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions" on the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount said, "Football is a physical game. Well, it used to be anyway."


Friday night, Soldotna and Homer will do their best to bring physicality back to football when the two remaining undefeated teams in the Northern Lights Conference clash at Justin Maile Field at 6 p.m.

"We want to run the football, play good defense, and be more physical and outhit the other team," said Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr., whose team brings a 4-0 record and 15-game winning streak into the contest. "They do the same thing.

"When another team lines up and runs 5-yard outs, I'll take that all day. Their kids have the physical toughness that comes with running the football and the attitude that comes with it."

When Homer defeated Soldotna in 2005, Brantley Jr. said the Stars got just two possessions in the second half.
"They're not designed to rip off 80-yard rushes," he said. "They're designed to control the football, clock and field position. If you get behind, you're in serious trouble."

The Mariners use the single-wing offense while the Stars use the Wing-T offense. As the victims of the 4-0 starts of the Stars and Mariners can attest, big plays can come out of the offenses. But both offenses also are content to get 3 or 4 yards at a time, run the clock and wear down the defense.

"I think it's really going to come down to the defensive side of getting each other off the field," Brantley Jr. said. "We both can chew up 6 to 8 minutes in a single drive. If either of our offenses get on a roll, it could be a long day for the other team."

The Stars have rushed for 1,303 yards and passed for 283 yards in their four games. Stats are not available for Homer's victories at Thunder Mountain and Sitka, but in their other two games Homer rushed for a total of 571 and passed for 155.

Homer coach Camron Wyatt said familiarity has bred respect between the two teams. He said they scrimmaged four times this summer, and one additional time at a preseason jamboree.

"Every single time, it was a battle," Wyatt said. "These kids don't dislike each other, they actually respect each other. They've spent a lot of time together."

Wyatt said he has been trying to build a program that can compete with SoHi, which won four of the past five small-schools state championships before moving to the new medium-schools division this season.

The Mariners lost to SoHi 26-20 last season, and lost just two starters from that team.

"He has a tradition of winning," Wyatt said of Brantley Jr. "The Mariners have always sought to emulate that."

SoHi's offense is led by Auston Tennis, who has averaged 13.3 yards per carry on 45 attempts while scoring 13 touchdowns. Brantley Jr. said he has been tackled just twice in the past two weeks.

"He's a wrestler with a great center of balance," Wyatt said of Tennis, who took the Class 4A title and 145 pounds last season. "I don't think I've ever seen him go down on the first hit. When he goes down, he goes down forward."

Brantley Jr. also said Josh Jansen and the linebackers will have to have a big game stopping the run.

South JV at Skyview, 2 p.m. Saturday
The Panthers will look to keep their momentum going in a homecoming contest.

After starting the year with a victory over large-schools foe Wasilla, the Panthers dropped NLC contests to Kenai and Kodiak. Last week, Skyview got back on the right track by thumping Houston 45-0.

"We want to keep building on last week," Skyview coach Eric Pomerleau said. "It's going to be a big homecoming crowd, so we want to show up and play well."

On defense, Pomerleau said outside linebackers Jesse Udelhoven and Jordan McNamara will be key in containing South's sweeps.

On offense, the Panthers will be without Albert White, who has eight catches for 133 yards this season. In the win over Houston, Richard Reynolds had four catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

"We've still got to eliminate mistakes on offense by all 11 players on the field," Pomerleau said. "Although we did good last week, we have to do better this week."

Kenai at Kodiak, 2 p.m. Saturday
Leave it to a newcomer to provide some perspective.

For most coaches, getting on a ferry to go play a football game in Kodiak is a nightmare. Not for first-year Kardinals coach John Marquez, or at least not yet.

"I'm just ecstatic," he said. "That's one of the reasons why I came up here. Who can say they've spent 16, 12 hours on the ocean in Alaska to go play a high school football game?"

The Kardinals left Homer at 10:30 p.m. Thursday and are due in Kodiak at noon today. Marquez said the team will practice immediately in order to get the sea out of its legs.

The notoriously windy and rainy island would not seem to be the best place for a spread offense. Skyview's spread scored just six points in a loss at Kodiak.

"The beautiful thing about our offense is you can go tight or spread," Marquez said.

The game is crucial in the NLC standings. Kenai is 1-0 in the league, while the Bears are 2-1. Marquez called it a must-win game.

Quarterback AJ Hull leads the Kards with 435 yards and seven touchdowns on 57 carries, but Marquez said he needs a huge game from middle linebackers Kyle Daugherty and Levi Hansen, and outside linebacker Daniel Carlson to stop Kodiak's attack. Grayden Mendenhall will miss the game with an injury.

Delta at Nikiski, 1 p.m. Saturday
The Bulldogs will look to rebound from a 34-28 loss to Barrow on Saturday.

Nikiski fell to 1-1 in the Greatland Conference with the loss, putting them in a third-place tie with Eielson and the Huskies.

"They were really focused in practice this week," Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said. "I'm excited for the opportunity for them to go out and show what they can do in the game."

Riddall said the Bulldogs were not as focused in the week of practice leading up to the Barrow game. Nikiski was coming off a 46-6 victory over a Thunder Mountain team it had lost to last year. Riddall said the team was focusing on that game as a barometer for the program's improvement.

"We put too much focus on Thunder Mountain," Riddall said. "Now, we have a chance to refocus."

The coach said the Bulldogs got off to a slow start against the Whalers. Riddall said he has been emphasizing starting fast all week in practice.

Nikiski's balanced attack has gained more yards than any other Kenai Peninsula team through four games, passing for 358 and rushing for 1,284.

Quarterback Colton Anderson directs the offense. He is 25 of 46 with 358 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bulldogs also have multiple threats on the ground. Kaden Spurgeon has rushed for 430 yards and seven touchdowns, Stephen Hartley has 423 yards and six touchdowns, and Josh Brown has 363 yards and five touchdowns.

Houston at Seward, 5 p.m. Friday
This nonconference matchup features a pair of winless teams. Houston plays in the medium-schools NLC, while Seward plays in the small-schools Greatland Conference.



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