PALMER — The Colony Knights made history, hosting and winning the first prep football game played on artificial field turf in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys, and they beat a defending state champion in the process.
Senior quarter Rob Lorentz threw for nearly 300 yards to lead the Knights to a 44-20 win over Kenai Central, the reigning medium-schools champs, during his team’s debut on turf Friday night at Colony High.
“It feels great. It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Lorentz said after the win. “We’re never satisfied with just that. We’ve got to keep pushing on, but we’re a family.”
Valley dignitaries, school officials and past program coaches cut the ribbon to commemorate the new field earlier in the day, but it was Lorentz and junior flanker Antonio Bush who christened the upgraded facilities. Bush, who showed glimpses of greatness during the second half of the season last year, hauled in a career-high seven catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns during the win.
Bush, who moved with his family from Atlanta last year, caught a 17-yard touchdown on Colony’s opening drive to give the Knights the 6-0 lead. He also snagged a 13-yard score in the fourth.
“This is the real Antonio Bush,” Lorentz said of Bush, who finished his sophomore season with 12 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns in four games played.
But Lorentz, who settled in to complete 10 of his final 16 attempts, has a full crop of receivers to throw to. Daniel Bilafer caught three passes for 53 yards, and Jacob Hall added grabs for 58 yards and a touchdown.
“I got really lucky and blessed to have those receivers,” Lorentz said.
Colony head coach Brian McIntosh said he was thrilled with the work of Lorentz and the receivers.
“After he got rid of the jitters, he performed really well,” McIntosh said of his senior signal-caller. The Knights also rushed for 171 during the win. Senior Wyatt Peltier ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Bryce Niver finished with a team-high 89 yards and a score.
“The offense played really well. I think we kind of showed we have a passing game, along with our running game,” McIntosh said. “We’re going to be pretty balanced.”
Colony found the end zone three times during the first quarter. Bush hauled in the 17-yard touchdown pass to give the Knights the early 6-0 lead, and after Kenai’s Ethan Oliver tied the game with a 65-yard touchdown run, Peltier gave the Knights the lead with the first of his two scores.
Peltier broke away from the defense and scored from 17 yards out to push Colony’s lead to 13-6 with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Kenai fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball right back to Colony, and the Knights needed less than two minutes to score.
Lorentz completed a pair of passes of 42 yards or more during the six-play scoring drive. Lorentz and Bush connected on a 48 yard pass. Two plays later, Lorentz completed a 42-yard pass to Hall.
Hall capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown catch.
“I never have to worry about him not knowing what he’s doing,” Lorentz said of Hall.
Bush, who added 13-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, said the Knights have a lot of weapons.
“We work hard every day at practice. Wyatt runs the ball hard. Bilafer catches everything that comes his way, most of the time,” Bush said. “We share the ball a lot.”
Niver, Colony’s second-string quarterback, saw time in the backfield with Lorentz on Friday, and ripped through the center of the defense, and sprinted for a 36-yard touchdown late in the first half.
“He’s a great running back,” Loretnz said of Niver, who rushed for a team-high 140 yards during a 56-7 win over Skyview last week. “You can put him in at fullback, running back, quarterback. With Niver going in at running back, I think it helps our team a ton.”
Kenai also had success running the ball, finishing with more than 300 yards on the ground.
Oliver, a Kenai senior, used his 65-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter to tie the game at 6. Oliver, also a baseball standout at KCHS and with the Post 20 Twins American Legion program, rushed for a team-high 135 yards in the loss. Oliver was lost in the third quarter, after suffering a significant leg injury.
Kenai head coach John Marquez said Oliver suffered a complete break of the tibia and fibula in his left leg. Oliver was released from Mat-Su Regional Medical Center on Saturday morning and was resting at home on Saturday.
“He was having a big game,” Marquez said. “He was our X-factor coming into this season — a guy that could get in the open field and outrun everybody.
“He’s still a part of our team, but other players will have to step up.”
Graydon Mendenhall and Kyle Foree also rumbled for touchdowns for the Kards. Mendenhall pushed his way into the end zone from 27 yards in the third quarter, and converted the 2-point conversion. Foree had only two rushing attempts in the game, but one went for a 23-yard touchdown.
“Kenai is a heck of a team,” McIntosh said. “They didn’t back down at all.”
Freshman Michael Tilly also had 64 yards rushing in the loss.
With the ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the new field that preceded the game, and watching his players enter the stadium in their game uniforms for the first time since the upgrades were completed, McIntosh admitted feeling a rush of emotion.
“It was moving. I’m not going to lie. I had a tear in my eye,” McIntosh said. “So many people have worked so hard, especially coach (Ray) Kizer, trying to make this happen.”
Kizer, a longtime coach and supporter of Colony football, was recognized during the ceremony as a key part of the battle to bring turf to Colony High School.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz, follow him @matsu_sports and find him by searching Valley Sports Huddle on Facebook.
Colony 44, Kenai 20
Colony — Bush 17 pass from Lorentz (kick failed), 10:24.
Kenai — Oliver 65 run (kick failed), 6:36.
Colony — Peltier 17 run (Bilafer kick) 5:07.
Colony — Hall 8 from Lorentz (Bilafer kick), 3:25.
Colony — Peltier 1 run (Bilafer kick) 8:43.
Colony — Niver 36 run (Bilafer kick), 6:24.
Colony — Bilafer 30 field goal, 0:00.
Kenai — Mendenhall 27 run (Mendenhall run) 3:08.
Colony — Bush 13 pass from Lorentz (Bilafer kick) 9:35.
Kenai — Foree 23 run (run failed) 5:36.
RUSHING — Kenai: Oliver 12-135, Mendenhall 11-67, Tilly 8-64, Barcus 5-(-20), Daniels 4-5, Foree 2-48, Wagoner 2-5, Short 1-3; Colony: Peltier 16-51, Niver 12-89, Ertz 5-15, Lorentz 4-16.
PASSING — Kenai: Barcus 0-2-0—0; Colony: Lorentz 14-26-0—296.
RECEIVING — Kenai: none; Colony: Bush 7-179, Hall 3-58, Bilafer 3-53, Campbell 1-6.