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Brian Smith
Members of the Kenai Kardinals football team pose for a group portrait after taking the medium-schools state championship by defeating the Homer Mariners 26-14.

Kardinals win medium-schools state championship

Kenai defeats Homer for crown

Posted: October 15, 2011 - 10:10pm  |  Updated: October 17, 2011 - 5:32pm
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Kenai quarterback AJ Hull leaps over Homer Mariners defenders Saturday at Chugiak High School. The Kardinals thumped Homer, who had topped them earlier in the season.  Brian Smith
Brian Smith
Kenai quarterback AJ Hull leaps over Homer Mariners defenders Saturday at Chugiak High School. The Kardinals thumped Homer, who had topped them earlier in the season.

Kenai Central defeated Homer 26-14 on Saturday at Chugiak High School to win the medium-schools First National Bowl.

It is the first time a champion in the medium-schools division has been crowned. Kenai, which had five small-schools titles to its credit, battled a Mariners team that was playing in its first ever football championship game.

"It was intense, definitely intense," Homer senior running back Hoss Frank said.

For Kenai, the state championship stage is something to which they're accustomed.

"It feels great being back, that's for sure," Kenai senior quarterback AJ Hull said.

All but one of Kenai's touchdowns came on the ground, with the lone passing score being a 39-yarder from Hull to junior receiver Ethan Oliver. Senior running back Joe Sandahl scored the first touchdown of the game with 5:15 left in the first.

Kenai was able to capitalize on a Homer fumble in the second quarter by sophomore Levi Hansen's touchdown to make the game 14-0 with 6:49 left in the half. 

"We knew we had to get turnovers, and we did," Kenai coach John Marquez said.

Homer answered with a 55-yard run by senior quarterback Robin Glosser. Glosser was joined by senior running back Dyllan Day as the point scorers for Homer, with Day's touchdown coming with 7:15 left in the game.

Homer's introduction to the championship atmosphere was not what held the Mariners back, Homer coach Cam Wyatt said, it was the Mariners themselves.

"It was just execution," he said. "Everything they did, we taught this weekend - and the boys did not execute at the same level, simple as that."

Despite coming up short, the Mariners kept battling until the final whistle sounded.

"Our guys didn't give up, so I was proud of that, that's the best thing about it, my guys didn't give up on me," Frank said.

Turnovers that led to points in the first half gave Homer an uphill fight.

"We went in prepared and we just didn't come out winners," Glosser said. "There were a lot of key plays like the fumbles in the first half and the first (Kenai) touchdown."

Kenai coach John Marquez said the team came into the contest with a chip on its shoulder.

"It's all about the kids, they accomplished this when no one thought they could," Marquez said. "I'm proud of the kids."

Hull said the turning point was about three weeks ago when the playoffs were approaching.

"We said, ‘OK, here is our window of opportunity,'" Hull said. "We could go three and out and be done for the rest of our high school football career, or B, come out, take the feeling we had last year and use it to motivate us to come out and beat Soldotna and then come out and beat these guys."

Glosser said there may have been some differences playing in a game at the championship level.

"There were lots of nerves, lots of butterflies," he said. "We played our hearts out - that's why we're here, to do that."

Both teams had tremendous support from their communities. The Homer fans led Frank to a somewhat reasonable question.

"Is there anyone left in Homer right now?" he said after the game.

Marquez credited the senior leadership to get them not only to the game, but to come out with the trophy.

"The senior leadership on this team is absolutely amazing," he said. "With AJ Hull, Kyle Dougherty, Daniel Carlson, all the way down to the seniors that didn't play, they're just great leaders on and off the field."

Carlson was at a loss for words when asked what the win meant to him.

"I feel fantastic, it's the state championship," he said.

The game was played in a slight rain.

Kardinals 26, Mariners 14
Kenai 7 7 12 0 -26
Homer 0 8 0 6 -14
1st Quarter
Ken - Sandahl 1 run (Wagoner kick) 5:15
2nd Quarter
Ken- Hansen 1 run (Wagoner kick) 6:49
Hom- Glosser 55 run (Downes run) 4:53
3rd Quarter
Ken-Hansen 57 run (kick fail) 7:44
Ken - Oliver 39 pass from Hull (kick fail) :10
4th Quarter
Hom-Day 28 run (run fail) 7:15

Ken Hom
First downs 11 8
rushes- yards 44-257 38-250
pass yards 2-5-54  1-5- 26
penalites 11-65 7-60
punt-avg 3-42 3-36
fumb-lost 2-2   4-3

Rushing - Ken: Hansen 12-154, Hull 17-54, Sandahl 10-34, Mendenhall
7-17. Hom: Glosser 11-133, Downes 9-62, Day 13-42, Frank 5-13.
Passing - Ken: Hull 2-5-54. Hom: Glosser 1-4-26, Day 0-1.
Receiving - Ken: Oliver 1-39, Nason 1-15. Hom: Frank 1-26.


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karzee 10/16/11 - 02:39 am
Kardinal Win!

Once again, the Kenai Kardinal football team proves -- undeniably -- they are THE CHAMPIONS! Through hard work, dedication, drive, determination and faith in themselves, each other and their coaches they did a terrific job last night! Homer, you guys did a great job, also. I am proud of both teams.

To the dedicated young men who were there for every game and every practice, but may have never gotten to step on the field, I know you are just as important as any of the guys who make the touchdowns. Without you to push and be there to support them, they couldn't have done it!

Thanks, Kards, for a super year of football. I almost wish it weren't over...

keeneye 10/16/11 - 09:07 am
got 6?

Congrats to Kenai! Is that 6 titles ? 5 time small school champion and now the 1st medium school champion!

Sparky and Sparkys' girl
Sparky and Sparkys' girl 10/16/11 - 09:42 am

Good job Kardinals! My pop, Jerry rode the spirit bus yesterday and I'm most certain that he has a mile wide smile today! A Kardinal fan for 43 or more years, he's only missed a handful of games. Go Red and White!

kard4life 10/16/11 - 05:12 pm

What a great year of high school football. Congrats to Homer on a awesome season. There guys played a great season of football. Great support by their community as well. Sohi on another great season. High school football was a toss up this year as to who was going to win week to week. Most of all I would like to congratulate the Kenai Kards on finshing the year strong and staying determined to bring that trophy back to Kenai. Coach Marquez in his first year of Kenai high school football gets a state championship, congrats to you. All the fans for making the trip to Chugiak, great turn out. Coach Dawson for ending his coaching days ( for now ) with a championship. Last but not least to all of our local businesses for all the financial support. What a great season to all!

Lovelife 10/16/11 - 06:27 pm
True determination!

All I can say is what a fantastic way to end the football season Kenai Kardinals. You had a rough go at it early in the season. But obvious through hardwork, determination and alot of heart you "believed it and achieved it" and that is why you youngmen are STATE CHAMPIONS!! It was nice to see a group of kids who were humble when you took a loss and gracious when you took a win. Homer Mariners you achieved alot this year and should be very proud of yourselves, thanks for a great championship game. You two teams made it fun and exciting for those who came out to watch and support our Peninsula Teams!!

kenai_kid 10/16/11 - 07:34 pm
A fine finish!

What fine and exemplary young men! They played great, made some mistakes recovered and played football in the way the game is supposed to be played! Play hard, play your best, play fair and never give up until the final whistle is blown.
I tip my hat to both the champion Kardinals and the runner up Mariners for a great game and for giving some (very few) parents a lesson in sportsmanship.
This will not be the last time the Mariners see the championship game. My feeling is, with the leadership they have, we will be seeing lots of this team.

KenaiGeri 10/16/11 - 07:46 pm
Great job guys!!! Both teams

Great job guys!!! Both teams showed up with heart, talent, and good sportsmanship! Both winners in my book!

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