The Eielson Ravens opened their high school football season in hyperdrive on Saturday.
Head coach David DeVaughn’s squad had only 15 eligible players for the nonconference contest the Homer Mariners, last year’s medium-schools state runner-up.
The Ravens managed to not let Homer’s power-running attack — sparked by sophomore Austin McGregor’s game-high 175 yards on 31 carries — overwhelm them at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base.
Eielson seized control early and emerged with a 26-6 victory, as junior quarterback Jovante Kincade and sophomore running back Anthony Griffith scored two touchdowns apiece.
It seemed that anyone in an Eielson uniform got an abundance of playing time Saturday on both sides of the ball, and the Ravens seemingly performed overall at about 120 percent on a hot, 72-degree afternoon.
“We condition a lot, we run gassers (sprints) in practice,’’ Griffith, who also played in the defensive secondary, said. “We just have to push through the tiredness. We have to keep going on no matter how tired we are, because we’re a small team.”
The Ravens defense went relentlessly at a sizable Mariners offensive line, and the aggressiveness led to stopping two fourth-down plays which Homer was inches from first downs.
“We were bigger but less experienced, and they were faster,’’ said Homer head coach Camron Wyatt, who saw 16 players graduate from last season’s squad. “I think they hit that B-gap faster and they went around with some speed.”
Reading the actions of a Homer guard helped the Ravens defense give DeVaughn a win to begin his 13th season as head coach.
“When he pulled, we just followed him on every play, and it would lead us to the play,’’ said Kincade, who also was a defensive back.
Griffith and Kincade were the leaders on the scoreboard for Eielson.
Griffith, who also was celebrating his 16th birthday, scored on a 12-yard in the first quarter and a 16-yard scamper in the second quarter to send the Ravens into halftime with a 14-0 lead.
Less than 30 seconds after Homer made it 14-6, Kincade saved the Ravens from his own mistake while giving Eielson a 20-6 lead at 3:18 remaining in the third.
With first down and 10 yards to go from the Homer 39, Kincade didn’t give the handoff well enough to Wyatt Dunlap, causing a fumble. Kincade recovered the loose ball at the 38 and had enough time and space to cut to the left sideline and dash into the end zone.
“It was a sloppy handoff. I didn’t give my running back a good handoff and he didn’t have the ball fully,’’ Kincade said. “I saw the ball in front of him and I just grabbed it and ran.”
Senior running back Tyler Ellsworth led Eielson in rushing with nine carries for 80 yards. Seventy-one of his yards came in the first half.
Homer sophomore quarterback Sheldon Hutt, in his first start, scored on a 1-yard sneak with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
RAVENS 26, MARINERS 6
Eielson—Griffith 12 run (Friske kick), 9:54.
Eielson—Griffith 16 run (Friske kick), 9:09.
Homer—Hutt 1 run (run failed), 3:40.
Eielson—Kincade 38 fumble recovery run (run failed), 3:18.
Eielson—Kincade 1 run (run failed), 9:50.
RUSHING—Homer: McGregor 31-175, Cardoza 9-27, Hutt 12-10, Knisley 1-0. Eielson: Ellsworth 9-80, Griffith 11-62, Dunlap 11-30, Kincade 9-24, Edson 1-1.
PASSING—Homer: Hutt 1-4-2-15. Eielson: Kincade 3-4-0-50.
RECEIVING—Homer: McGregor 1-15. Eielson: Griffith 2-39, Ellsworth 1-11.