Football preview: Kodiak, SoHi to battle for 1st in NLC

Week 6 features a full slate of Northern Lights Conference games, with Soldotna and Kodiak battling for the league’s top spot and the other four teams in the league jockeying for playoff position.


Soldotna at Kodiak, 3 p.m. Saturday
The Stars enter this contest at 3-0 in the NLC and 4-1 overall, while Kodiak is 2-0 and 3-2.
There are a number of factors that assure the Stars will get the best effort of the Bears.
“I know this will be a big game for their community,” Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “It’s their homecoming game and there’s the added incentive of their turf field.”
This will be the first game played on Kodiak’s new turf field, and Brantley Jr. said there are a number of activities organized around the event.
“There’s no question we’ve got some history with each other, having played three title games together,” Brantley Jr. said.
SoHi will be arriving in Kodiak on Friday via ferry and Brantley Jr. said his team will be ready for the game.
“I’ll never use that boat ride as an excuse,” he said. “Those kids from Kodiak have to do it four or five times a year. We’ll bring out the Dramamine and ginger root, prepare for the worst weather and hope for the best weather.”
Brantley Jr. got to sit and watch Kodiak defeat Kenai Central 20-19 on Saturday.
“I think they showed some great resilience,” Brantley Jr. said. “Kenai was moving the ball on them quite well early and they hung in there.”
The coach said his team has been getting great leadership from quarterback Noah Fowler, who leads the Kenai Peninsula with 393 passing yards. He has 10 touchdowns to two interceptions.
SoHi also boasts Colton Young, who is second on the peninsula in points with 68. Young is a threat to score running, receiving or intercepting balls from his cornerback position.
Brantley Jr. also said defensive end and offensive guard Dylan Smith had a breakout game against Houston on Friday. Smith was third on the team in defensive points and was the offensive lineman of the week. He also was second in hammer points, or points the offensive line collects for putting opponents to the ground.
Brantley Jr. said Jake Kooly will be out this week with an ankle injury, while Jarrett Urban is doubtful with a shoulder injury.

Skyview at Homer, 3 p.m. Saturday
Fresh off their first win of the season, the Panthers are now looking to make their way into the NLC playoff race.
Skyview is 0-2 in the league and 1-4 overall. Homer is 1-1 in the league and 2-2 overall.
Homer coach Camron Wyatt said he talked to Skyview coach Eric Pomerleau after Skyview’s 27-20, double-overtime win over Thunder Mountain.
Pomerleau’s advice? Don’t bother with the film from earlier games, because Skyview was a different team against Thunder Mountain.
For the first time all season, Skyview had its full array of weapons on the field — Bailey Jones passed for 84 yards and ran for 94, Tyler Howell had 60 yards receiving, Brandon Rice rushed for 118 yards and Riley Edwards rushed for 92 yards.
“I think we’re just a more complete team,” Pomerleau said. “Everyone has grown and we’ve come together as we’ve gotten healthy.
“You have to have your horses ready to go, and we’re getting close to that.”
Kyle Zimmerman will be out this week with a concussion.
The Panthers were able to run 82 offensive plays against Thunder Mountain.
“We want to hold onto the ball against them,” Pomerleau said of the Mariners. “If you don’t attack them, they’ll have the ball for seven, eight or nine minutes in one drive.
“If you’re playing defense the whole time, that makes it difficult to win a game.”

Kenai at Houston, 7 p.m. Friday
A last-second loss to Kodiak on Saturday has put the Kards in need of a win to stay in the playoff hunt.
Kenai is 0-2 in the NLC and 0-5 overall, while Houston is 1-2 and 2-3.
Kenai coach John Marquez said the Kards are still unified despite a winless campaign.
“Everyone would think it’s a real great challenge to keep these kids together,” Marquez said. “They were together before the season started in the spring and summer.
“It’s been fairly easy to keep them motivated and ready to go.”
Marquez said the tough thing is Kenai’s improvement has not shown up in the win column. The coach has been particularly pleased with the running attack.
“We’re able to run on anybody,” Marquez said. “They know what play is coming, and we still get it done.”
He said the problem is opponents are ganging up more and more on the run. He said the focus this week in practice has been completing passes.
He said he’d like to get to 70 percent run, 30 percent pass, or even 60-40.
“Right now, we’re about 98-2,” he said.
Grayden Mendenhall had a huge game against Kodiak, rushing for 170 yards and making 11 solo tackles with two assists.
“He can’t get those yards without the offensive line,” Marquez said. “They’ve got 7, 8 or 9 in the box and they’re still getting the job done.”

Valdez at Nikiski, 5:30 p.m. Friday
The Bulldogs will look to get back on track in the Greatland Conference after a 57-48 loss to Eielson last week.
Nikiski is 1-1 in the conference and 3-2 overall, while Valdez is 0-3 and 1-4. The Buccaneers scored their first victory of the year last week by toppling Ketchikan.
Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said the focus of practice this week was defense.
“Knowing and doing your job,” Riddall said. “It was obvious in the game that a few guys were sometimes trying to do more than they needed to and it hurt us.
“You’ve got to trust the guy to the left and right of you. If you do that, good things will happen.”
Riddall said the defensive mistakes are fixable. He said the Bulldogs have some young guys on defense and that inexperience showed.
On offense, Nikiski showed it has another dimension when Seth Carstens passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs, led by the Kenai Peninsula’s leading rusher in Stephen Hartley, have already shown how dangerous they are on the ground.
“Our offensive linemen are all doing a great job,” Riddall said. “Obviously, you are doing great when you get 400 yards on the ground.”
Center Jesse Cobb will miss the Valdez game with an injury.
Riddall said he has a ton of respect for Lee Cockerham and knows his team will get a hard-fought, clean game tonight.
“With where we are in the standings, anybody right now is a threat,” Riddall said.

Voznesenka at Seward, 2 p.m. Saturday
The two squads will scrimmage because the Seahawks have a bye this week.


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