It's 2 1/2 weeks before school is due to start, and the walk to Kenai Central football coach Jim Beeson's office reveals the building is still a de facto hurricane zone following some summer renovation.
Light covers hang down from fixtures, scrap from the construction litters the hallways, and various tools and ladders make looking down while walking a must.
"They're going to have all this cleaned up by the time school starts?" Beeson is asked by a visitor who managed to negotiate a clear path to his office.
'Defensively, it's going to be a rebuilding process. But if you're going to go through growing pains, you might as well do it with young kids.'
Kenai Central football coach
"That's what they say," Beeson replied.
The coach can only hope for a similarly tidy and quick rebuilding project this year on Kenai's football fields.
Last season, the Kardinals rebounded nicely from a two-victory campaign in 1999 as they finished second in the Northern Lights Conference and lost to eventual state champion Nikiski in the playoffs.
Kenai Central Junior Varsity
Freshmen: Ryann Hansen, Cory Whitely, Rocky Ward, Ivan Schoolcraft, Avery Wingster, Chris Trammell, Norman Dedrick, Zach DeMello, Sonny Nelson, Josh Bennett, Robert VanHeck, JB Swan, Thomas Hibpshman, Shawn Isaacs, Chris Logan, Marcus Reemtsma, Robert Hering. Sophomores: Bryan Stocks, Cole Chappell, Jacob Madrid, Geordon Main, TJ Olick, Alex Johanson, Mike Kent, Cameron McGahon, Brandon Reed, Tyler Morris, Kyle Stanton, Jason Anderson, Luke Pierce, Kenny Dormady, Justin Lee, John Morris, Geoffrey Gemmell, Danny Autrey.
However, a number of key departures from the team have left Beeson depending on some extremely young players this season as he begins his 12th season at Kenai.
Just how young will Kenai be? On defense, Beeson could end up starting nine underclassmen -- two freshman, two sophomores and five juniors.
The coach is hoping several factors will let him get away with the youth movement.
"Defensively, it's going to be a rebuilding process," said Beeson, who has about 60 players out for his program this year. "But if you're going to go through growing pains, you might as well do it with young kids.
"This is the first year we're going to see a big influx of Pop Warner kids. We've got a big group of freshman who've already got football experience from Pop Warner."
In addition, a lot of Kenai's young players are already familiar with members of the coaching staff.
Defensive coordinator Jim Dawson is the principal at Mountainview Elementary, meaning he got to know a lot of the kids in grades three through five. Assistant Ken Roser is the physical education teacher at Kenai Middle School, plus assistant Clayton Holland also spends half his time teaching at the middle school.
"The Kenai kids, the true Kenai kids who have lived here all the way, know a lot of the coaches the day they get here," Beeson said. "That helps the rest of the coaches get to know them a lot quicker."
Despite Pop Warner and familiarity with the players, Beeson knows that his offense is going to have to score a lot of points in order to win games.
Last season, Kenai's defense was rock-solid in giving up 85 points in seven regular season games. However, the offense often struggled to score points in Kenai's big games, striking for just 30 points in Kenai's four losses.
"We didn't play real well on offense last year," Beeson said. "We have the potential to score a few more points this year.
"Cory Janson has big-play potential, and we have some guys who can throw and catch the ball."
The offense starts with senior tackle Dane Myers, an all-conference tackle last year. Myers will be clearing the way for junior running back Janson, who was among the conference's leading rushers last year and will get the ball 20 to 30 times per game.
Senior Wally Ward will be used everywhere from quarterback to receiver to running back, while senior Scott Kornfield will play running back and receiver.
Junior Casey Crowder and senior Bryce Stanton will join Myers on the line, while junior Michael Stanton will take some snaps at quarterback. Sophomore Nick Barnes and junior Tyson Jolliffe also will play receiver.
Beeson also is hoping he's found a solid kicker in senior Jamie Montgomery.
The defense will be anchored by Myers and Janson, who was an all-conference defensive back last year.
"Our first two games are nonleague games against Houston and ACS, so that'll be nice," Beeson said. "We'd like to win, but at the same time we've got a lot of learning to do.
"We need to get players in game situations before the games really start counting."
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