Kenai Central played homecoming spoilers Saturday, handing Eagle River a 42-28 Northern Lights Conference football loss in front of a large, spirited crowd at the Wolves’ Den.
Kenai got a pair of touchdown passes from Connor Felchle to Zack Tuttle and capitalized on four Wolves’ turnovers to improve to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Northern Lights Conference. Eagle River dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the NLC.
Rykker Riddall ran for 91 yards and a touchdown, Titus Riddall rushed for 81 yards and a score and Tyrone McEnerney added a rushing touchdown for Kenai, which piled up 233 yards on the ground and averaged nearly 7 yards a carry. Tuttle had just three catches but made them count, piling up 105 of Kenai’s 121 receiving yards.
Both teams threw often despite a gusty wind that added an autumn chill to an otherwise pleasant, partly sunny afternoon. Ryan Adkins threw for two touchdowns and ran in another for the Wolves, who threw for 207 yards and three aerial scores but could only muster 58 yards on the ground. Quanard Cox ran for a team-high 43 yards and caught a touchdown pass for Eagle River, which also got touchdown receptions from Justice Townsend and Bryson Rollman.
The game featured an extended halftime show, including floats and the crowning of the homecoming court (Wolves senior Grant Burningham was named Homecoming King, while senior and student body president Geena Graff was crowned Homecoming Queen).
Wolves coach Bob Adkins said his team put on a decent show, but made too many mistakes against the NLC stalwarts, who have won six state titles since 2002.
“Against a good team you can’t have mistakes,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure that out as we go.”
The game was tight until late, with Eagle River leading at the end of the first quarter and hanging close until back-to-back Kenai touchdowns less than two minutes apart between the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth gave Kenai some breathing room.
The Kardinals came out flying on their opening drive, going 57 yards in four plays and taking a 6-0 lead on Rykker Riddall’s 2-yard touchdown run just 94 seconds into the contest.
The Wolves bit back, with the defense getting the ball back thanks to a big stop by their biggest player, senior lineman Makiah Stafford, who used his 6-foot-2, 315-pound frame to swallow up Titus Riddall on fourth-and-three near midfield. The Wolves offense then marched 42 yards on nine plays, with Adkins sneaking in from 2 yards out to tie the game — then doing the same thing on the 2-point conversion to make it 8-6 Wolves.
Kenai took back the momentum at the end of the second quarter. After a promising Eagle River drive stalled deep in Kardinals territory, Kenai put together its longest drive of the day, going 93 yards on seven plays highlighted by a 42-yard Rykker Riddall scamper and capped by a 9-yard McEnerney touchdown run. The Wolves went three-and-out, punting back to Kenai with just 28 seconds to go in the half. As it turns out, that’s exactly 18 seconds less than Tuttle would need to take a Felchle pass 79 yards to the end zone on Kenai’s next play from scrimmage.
Despite trailing 20-8 at halftime, the Wolves remained upbeat in the third quarter and the positivity paid off when Dominic Ables recovered a James Siamani fumble deep in Kenai territory on the Kards’ first drive of the second half. Adkins turned the turnover into points, finding Cox with a 4-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 20-14 with 7:24 left in the third.
That’s as close as Eagle River would get.
Felchle and Tuttle hooked up for a 6-yard score just before the end of the third quarter, and Kenai got the ball right back on the first play of the fourth when Michael Caywood had the ball ripped loose at the end of a 10-yard run. The Kards converted, with Titus Riddall scoring from 4 yards out to give Kenai a 20-point cushion.
“That definitely gave them some spark,” coach Adkins said of the sequence.
Rollman gave the home side some late hope with a leaping 20-yard touchdown reception in double coverage late in the fourth, but a 45-yard Titus Riddall interception return for a touchdown on the Wolves’ next posession again put Kenai up by three scores.
Eagle River wasn’t quite done, as Thad Heagy hit Townsend with a 76-yard touchdown pass for the game’s final score.
Kenai coach Ted Riddall said his team played better as the game wore on.
“We’ve been kind of sluggish in the first half of games all year,” he said.
Riddall credited Eagle River with giving his team — which suited up 12 more players than the Wolves on Saturday — everything it could handle.
“Those are not the Wolves of the past,” he said of Eagle River, which has never had a winning season or made the playoffs since varsity play began in 2006. “That’s a good football team there.”
Eagle River’s next game is at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at nonconference West Valley in Fairbanks. Kenai’s faces NLC foe Kodiak that same day at 5 p.m. in Kodiak.
Adkins said his team continues to make strides forward, but isn’t interested in moral victories.
“We’re improving, but we’re not satisfied,” he said.
KARDINALS 42, WOLVES 28
Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017
At Eagle River High School
KEN — Ryker Riddall 2 run (run failed), 10:26
ER — Ryan Adkins 2 run (Adkins run), 3:16
KEN — Tyler McEnerney 9 run (Titus Riddall run), 1:36
KEN — Zack Tuttle 71 pass from Connor Felchle (run failed), 0:18
ER — Quanard Cox 4 pass from Adkins (kick blocked), 7:24
KEN — Tuttle 6 pass from Felchle (run failed), :02
KEN — Titus Riddall 4 run (Tuttle pass from Felchle), 10:14
ER — Bryson Rollman 20 pass from Adkins (Andrew Hamilton kick), 5:24
KEN — Titus Riddall 45 interception return (McEnerney run), 2:29
ER — Justice Townsend 76 pass from Thad Heagy (Hamilton kick), 1:23
First downs 11 11
Rushes-yards 35-233 35-58
Passing yards 121 207
Comp-att-int 7-17-1 11-23-2
Punts-avg. 2-24.0 4-32.7
Fumbles-lost 1-1 5-2
Penalties-yards 6-33 5-45
Return yards 45 23
RUSHING — Eagle River: Quanard Cox 12-43, Michael Caywood 5-21, Ryan Adkins 10-17, Kobe Sherman 2-5, Kam Williams 4-(-5), Thad Heagy 2-(-23). Kenai: Rykker Riddall 7-91, Titus Riddall 16-81, James Siamani 5-33, Tyrone McEnerney 6-29, Connor Felchle 1-(-1).
PASSING — Eagle River: Ryan Adkins 10-20-2—131, Thad Heagy 1-3-0—76. Kenai: Connor Felchle 7-16-1—121, Rykker Riddall 0-1-0—0.
RECEIVING — Eagle River: Bryson Rollman 4-68, Justice Townsend 3-91, Quanard Cox 3-36, Mason Piper 1-7, Kam Williams 1-5. Kenai: Zack Tuttle 3-105, Tyrone McEnerney 3-5, James Siamani 1-11.