For the first time in Alaska high school football history, the reigning large- and small-schools state champions will face off in a regular season game Saturday when the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears travel to Kenai to face the Kardinals at 2 p.m. at Ed Hollier Field.
The game against a top large-schools team figures to be a big early test for the Kardinals, who are trying to rebuild a team that lost a number of star players on both sides of the ball.
“Juneau is going to be real tough,” Kenai head coach Jim Beeson said earlier this week.
Junior running back Bill Chimphalee figures to get plenty of action Saturday in his first start as the featured back. Despite spending most of last season as a wide receiver and back-up tailback behind Brandon Miles, Chimphalee still managed to rush for 251 yards and four touchdowns.
The versatile speedster also scored three times on receptions and had three return scores.
Chimphalee’s biggest challenge Saturday, however, may come on defense. As the anchor of the Kenai secondary (he tied the school single-season record for interceptions last year at cornerback), Chimphalee will be tasked with trying to slow down Juneau’s Chris Hinkley, who threw for a state-record 2,289 yards and 37 touchdowns last season.
East Anchorage (JV) at Nikiski, 1 p.m. Saturday
The Nikiski Bulldogs have only practiced for two weeks in 2006, but they’ve prepared to face three different opponents.
First, Ketchikan was scheduled to travel to the peninsula to face Nikiski. But the Kings had trouble fielding a team and had to pull out of Saturday’s 1 p.m. season opener.
Next, first-year program Barrow signed on to make the trip south, but the Whalers couldn’t get a flight off the North Slope.
“They were willing but not able,” Nikiski head coach Ned Clooten said Thursday.
Finally, after scrambling to find an opponent, Clooten was able to line up the East junior varsity, which had an open date.
“I really didn’t want to tell the guys we weren’t playing this weekend,” Clooten said.
Not playing won’t be a problem for the Bulldogs, who will field a roster consisting of approximately 16 varsity players.
“We’re real thin,” Clooten said.
The Bulldogs may be thin, but Clooten has some experience returning in his offensive backfield, with seniors Kenny Fagan, Tyler Payment and Corey Smith all having seen time in the Bulldogs’ wing-T offense last season at the varsity level.
Those three, along with tackle Jeremiah Hundley, are the only Bulldogs who started for last season’s varsity squad.
With a team that’s in the early stages of starting to come together, Clooten said he’s hoping to use Saturday’s game as a way to take a positive first step into the season and begin to work his new players into the rotation.
Homer at Eielson, 6 p.m. Saturday
The game is a rematch of the semifinals of the small-schools playoffs last season. Eielson won that game by one point.
While Homer lost some firepower from last year’s squad, such as wide receiver Justin Smith and quarterback Canyon McKinstry, the Mariners do have 16 returning seniors. The group is heavy on experience because it came up in the Pop Warner program.
Homer returns its entire offensive line. Center Steve Kohout is the smallest of the bunch at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds. Mike Fielding, Erik Rasmussen, Jake Jimenez and Andrew Campbell combine to average 290 pounds.
On defense, Homer plans to go with five down linemen to take advantage of the size of that group.
Soldotna at Colony, 6 p.m. Saturday
The Stars start a promising season with a tough test against the big-schools Knights.
“Talentwise, we are the best we’ve been since I’ve been here,” said coach Sarge Truesdell, who is in his sixth year as head coach and ninth year in the program. “There’s a lot more to it than talent.
“There’s also the leadership piece and the commitment piece.”
Truesdell said new, proven leaders must emerge after losing graduates Aleks Pfaffe, Jacob Howarth and Kory Wilbanks.
The Stars have 16 or 17 seniors in the program. Truesdell said all of the seniors have been in the program for four years.
Spencer Tachick moves into the quarterback position this season, and his prime target will be Kelly Seggerman, who is 6-foot-1 and finished third in the 100-yard dash at state last spring.
The Stars also are loaded at running back with Mike Reed, Bryce Gardner, Marvin Tate and Anthony Griglione.
Skyview at Seward, 6 p.m. Friday
The Seahawks can expect to see a heavy dose of running back Greg Bosick.
“You and everybody else knows it,” Skyview coach Phil Sheridan said.
The explosive Bosick, at 5-10, 200 pounds, often requires more than one defender to be stopped. Sheridan said he needs good line play and some alternate threats to keep defenses from ganging up on Bosick.
Sheridan said he hopes some of those alternate threats come from some in-school recruiting he has done. Sheridan has gotten some soccer players to play football this year, and said that should do wonders for his team’s speed on the outside.
Sheridan also is feeling good about his line. Despite an abundance of seniors on the team last year, Sheridan had three sophomores starting on the offensive line. Those three Rich Shirnberg, Josh DeTavernier and Patrick Sheridan return as juniors to form the core of the line this year.
Homer News reporter Ben Stuart contributed to this report.
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