The Kenai Central High School football team opened its season Saturday with a 17-6 loss to Anchorage's West High School at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.
"We just killed ourselves, starting with the kickoff return," Kenai head coach Jim Beeson said. "... Any time something positive happened for us, we shot ourselves in the foot."
Indeed, West's Anthony Williams got a pair of great blocks to return the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, and the Eagles defense kept the Kardinals bottled up in their own end of the field for much of the first half.
The Kenai defense did play well with its back against the wall, but West was able to take advantage of a Kenai fumble inside its own 25-yard line late in the third quarter. The Eagles needed just two plays to score, taking a 14-0 lead.
Kenai had some drives stalled with penalties at inopportune times. Beeson said the mistakes didn't make a huge difference in the game's outcome, but they did weigh on his team mentally.
The Kardinals refused to fold, though, and after the Eagles defense stopped the Kardinals on their next drive, Kenai came up with an opportunistic play on special teams as the West return man muffed the punt. The Kardinals pounced on the ball on the West 30-yard line and put together a six-play scoring drive.
After throwing an incomplete pass and being dropped for a loss on the first two plays of the drive, quarterback Cole Chappell scampered for an 11-yard gain, then connected with Josh Bennett for a 15-yard completion to give the Kardinals a first-and-10 from the West 12.
Chappell carried the ball to the 5 on first down, then ran a quarterback sneak for the score.
"It was supposed to be an option," Chappell said of his touchdown run. "We have it prearranged, though, that if I see (the sneak) open, I tell my center and go."
The Kardinals failed to convert the extra point, though, and West capitalized on an interception early in the third quarter with a 23-yard field goal, giving the Eagles their final margin of victory.
Beeson was pleased with the play of the Kardinals defensive unit but said the offense and the special teams need some work.
"Really, on defense, we bent a little bit, but we didn't break," Beeson said. "On offense, with (West's) speed and athleticism, any slow developing play we ran, they were getting there and making the play."
The Kenai offense did get into a rhythm in the second half, putting together a 12-play, 45-yard drive at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.
Chappell said the Kardinals tried to account for the Eagles' speed with their play calling.
"Their inside backers were coming just about every play," Chappell said. "We had our running backs cheat up a little bit and hit the linebackers coming through."
Chappell said the Kardinals would continue to work this week to be better prepared for next weekend's trip to Lathrop to face the Malemutes.
"We've just got to execute and do what we need to do," Beeson said.
"This is a starting point. We need to learn from our mistakes."
Kenai will travel to Fairbanks to face Lathrop next Saturday. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m.
EAGLES 17, KARDINALS 6
West 7 7 3 0 17
Kenai 0 6 0 0 6
West Ant. Williams 80 kickoff return (Ant. Williams kick), 11:46
West Massenburg 7 run (Ant. Williams kick), 4:44
Ken Chappell 5 run (kick failed), 0:43
West Ant. Williams 23 field goal
First downs 10 7
Rushes-yards 36-211 44-51
Passing yards 18 44
Return yards 31 18
Passing 1-7-1 4-11-1
Punts-avg 4-29.8 7-32.3
Fumbles-lost 2-2 5-1
Penalties-yards 5-65 5-25
Rushing West: Ant. Williams 10-102, Martin 8-61, Massenburg 9-27, Pena 8-16, Zimmerman 1-5. Kenai: Chappell 24-31, Hansen 8-31, Reemtsma 12-(-11).
Passing West: Pena 1-7-118. Kenai: Chappell 4-11-144.
Receiving West: Bridges 1-18. Kenai: Reemtsma 3-29, Bennett 1-15.
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