Stars, Knights set to clash

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2008

Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. still can't tell you what the future holds for the 2008 edition of the Stars.

Get back to him around 10 p.m. today.

In a matchup reminiscent of Soldotna's Week 2 clash with large-schools opponent Palmer last season, a 47-14 dismantling by the Stars before they cruised to their second straight small-schools state championship, perennial large-schools contender Colony comes to town today for a colossal 6:30 p.m. showdown billed as one of the best this season.

"We know Colony's a pretty good football team. We don't really know what we have yet. It's exciting to find out. It is truly a mystery to us, too," Brantley said. "But one thing for sure is we know a pretty good football team is going to line up across from us Friday night.

"If we're able to hang with Colony, I think we can hang with anybody at our level. I think we'll know that for sure," he added. "But I think we're smart enough not to take anyone for granted."

Especially not the Knights, who routed SoHi 41-6 in 2006 but lost a 20-16 nail-biter to North Pole in their opener last week.

"We know we're lining up on the field with a pretty darn good football team," he said, adding Colony led by two scores with close to 10 minutes left before the Patriots stormed back to win.

The Stars aren't to shabby themselves.

A 55-22 season-opening victory at Nikiski last Friday showcased many of the Stars strengths, such as running back Anthony Griglione, who amassed 172 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries.

"He's our big-time player and it's a big-time game and we hope he steps up and shines," Brantley said. "He's capable of breaking a big run at any time and very capable of keeping us in a ballgame like the one that we have (today)."

Newly minted starting quarterback Zayan Aberkane, who took over when Griglione shifted to running back this season, also exhibited his readiness to contribute, completing 1-of-3 passes, the first one a 14-yard touchdown to Kyle Wood, while also racking up 54 yards on the ground.

The game against the Bulldogs also demonstrated the Stars inexperience at many positions, mainly the offensive and defensive lines, as SoHi surrendered 275 rushing yards to Nikiski.

"We were not satisfied with the effort that we got defensively," he said.

Against the Knights consistent shotgun formation, boasting a quarterback who's not afraid to air it out, Brantley knows his front five needs to improve.

"I really think our test is going to be up front. They're pretty talented up front," he said. "(Our) offensive and defensive lines are pretty green. We made a lot of mistakes last week. We studied our film and hopefully we learned from them and we'll come out and have a better effort this week."

If they don't, it won't put a dent into their postseason goals.

Should they win, though, a repeat of last season may be in the cards.

"This mentality with this group is no different than last year or the year before, they welcome the challenge. The blood flows a little bit faster when you line up against a really talented ball club," Brantley said. "These are the games that make us better. We don't get a lot better playing somebody that we can blow out by 50 points. We want to line up and play somebody a little better than us.

"It's a chance to challenge ourselves. You don't know how heavy a load you can pull until you hook them up."

Valdez at Kenai, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Kardinals coach Jim Beeson isn't taking anything for granted.

Despite playing the Vikings, a team from the Great Land Conference that lost 39-6 to Eielson last week, he knows what lies ahead.

"Valdez is certainly not a game that anybody that takes them lightly and thinks they're going to show up and win a football game, it's not going to happen," he said. "They have athletes. You better prepare for them because if you don't, you might find yourself on the wrong end of the scoreboard."

Kenai was prepared for a bigger, faster Lathrop team last weekend but still fell 8-6 in slick conditions, a 96-yard TD run by the Malemutes proving to be the difference.

"We've just got to show up and play. We've got to get some momentum and start playing better on offense," Beeson said. "We played well on defense and special teams. We did not on offense. It's important just to get some confidence on the offensive side of the ball."

Had it not been for summer rain, making the Vikings' recently resodded field unplayable, Kenai could have been traveling to Valdez and would have left on Thursday morning.

Beeson's not too upset, though.

"That part of it certainly plays in our favor," he said.

Skyview at Houston, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Two road games to begin the season is always difficult.

Even more so when you journey to the top of the world, which the Panthers did last weekend before losing 36-27 at Barrow.

"Last week was brutal," said Skyview coach Jerry Byrne. "This one's not going to be quite as bad." The Panther still have to travel, but only to Houston, the most recent addition to the Northern Lights Conference, which rolled to a 48-8 win over Delta Junction last week.

"Houston's basically going to run the same thing they are," Byrne said of the Whalers, who executed a spread offense with a 4-4 defense. "I think we'll be better prepared this week."

Trailing 12-0 early, Skyview -- which turned the ball over four times -- fought back in trimming the deficit to 28-27 after three quarters.

"We had them on the ropes in the third quarter and we just didn't capitalize on it," he said. "We came and we were marching and then we fumbled and lost the ball and had a couple of back-to-back penalties and it took away our fire. It kind of went downhill from there."

Nikiski at Delta, today, 5 p.m.

The Bulldogs may have lost to Soldotna by 33 points last Friday, but in some ways, scoring three touchdowns was a victory in itself.

"Definitely there were some things that we did really well, so when the guys watched the film they could see they were right in the game. Maybe not on the scoreboard, but we had opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. But nonetheless, we had the opportunities," said Nikiski coach Ted Riddall. "It encouraged them by seeing some of things that they could do better on film and they're not big things. I think that catapulted them into this week. I'm excited to see how it transfers onto the field."

Today's game should be a little easier for the Bulldogs as they begin Great Land Conference play with a tilt against Delta Junction.

"You definitely want to make sure that you're taking care of business on your side of the conference," Riddall said. "We're not going to look past anybody this year."

Contrary to the Bulldogs' traditionally balanced attack, as they ran 48 times last week compared to 18 passes, look for them to rely more on their ground game this week as senior receiver Evan Holloway is sidelined with a strained ligament in his right knee, an injury suffered near the end of the SoHi game.

"Definitely going to lean on the run a little bit," Riddall said, adding Holloway should be set to return for their Week 3 game at Kenai. "But we can still throw the ball as well and catch some of the backs out of the backfield to catch it."

In other GLC action, Seward travels to Barrow for a game on Saturday.

Homer at Kodiak, Saturday 2 p.m.

Before the season even began, Mariners coach Camron Wyatt said their second-week game at top-ranked Kodiak would be the most difficult of the entire season.

After topping Monroe Catholic, 52-26, last week, a game Homer led by just four at halftime before outscoring Monroe 28-6 in the second half, Wyatt's mind-set hasn't changed a bit regarding his team's NLC opener.

"I think the rest of the league is going to look at this game and wonder what kind of Mariner team is going to be put out on the field this year," he said. "It would be nice if Kodiak would look by us, but I don't think they're going to."

Probably not, considering they put a 53-0 beating on Seward last weekend.

"This is going to be a real tough one. Think about getting those kids on a 12-hour boat ride ... and then taking on a team that has earned their dues," Wyatt said. "Kodiak is not a sluff team. They're not fake. They're for real. And if the Mariners want to go and be competitive, the Mariners are going to have to play varsity football."

Dean DeVaney, who totaled 215 yards last week (93 passing, 84 receiving, 38 rushing) and added four touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing, one passing), will be lining up more as a receiver this week as Cole Jacobsen will stand behind center.

"I think it's very winnable," he said. "We have to show up and play and be competitive and that will be a good thing for us. I'm just so excited about it because I think the boys had a real good week of practice and I know Kodiak is rolling and I think it's going to be real good game on the Rock."

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