Kodiak has long been considered a comer in the Northern Lights Conference. Saturday at Skyview High School, the rest of the conference will get a good indication if the Bears have finally arrived.
Both the Panthers and Bears will open up NLC play with a 2 p.m. game on Saturday.
Kodiak has an enrollment in the 800s. The four members of the NLC on the peninsula all have an enrollment in the 500s. With a strong youth football league that started in the late 1990s, many have figured it is just a matter of time before the Bears become one of the top football teams in the NLC.
Kodiak’s high school program has experienced growing pains that are typical for any fledgling high school program. The Bears have not yet made a playoff appearance.
Last week, the Bears opened their season with a 33-27 victory over large-schools opponent Wasilla.
“They’re a senior-laden team,” Skyview coach Phil Sheridan said. “They’re a very experienced and strong team. They are very balanced. They’ve got great skill people at every position.”
The Bears have caught the attention of peninsula coaches. Sheridan said he has fielded a number of calls from coaches who are interested in getting the game film for Saturday’s game.
“There’s no question about it everybody in the NLC knows how good Kodiak is,” Soldotna coach Sarge Truesdell said. “With the Wasilla score, and the camps this summer, everybody knows the kind of talent they have.”
One thing nobody has seen is how this Kodiak team fares in an NLC game.
“This will be a good litmus test to see how good Kodiak is,” Sheridan said. “It will probably be the perfect gauge.”
Sheridan said that Kodiak quarterback Stuart McFarland has a cannon that lets him get the ball downfield. Once the field is stretched, speedy running back Michael O’Dell has more open space.
“We need to stop their big plays,” Sheridan said.
The coach, whose team is 1-0 after beating Seward last week, said Greg Bosick will play a key role in the game. Bosick had 197 yards on 21 carries last week against the Seahawks.
“Our best defense will be a good offense,” Sheridan said. “We’d like to control the football and take time off the clock.”
Palmer at Soldotna, 6 p.m. today
Truesdell said his team is looking to rebound from a poor performance in a 41-6 loss to Colony.
“We weren’t competitive in that football game,” Truesdell said. “Part of it was execution and part of it was their superior talent.
“The fact is, we didn’t show up to play as well as we could have.”
Truesdell said a loss to a team like Colony is understandable. What bugged him was that when his squad saw that Colony had the edge in talent, it laid down for the Knights. Truesdell said his team must always give maximum effort in order to improve.
“Our ultimate goal is to go out, get better and go into Kodiak next week firing on all cylinders,” Truesdell said. “I’m looking for the kids to go out and show me that we have 15 seniors who have been with the program for four years and know how to win football games.”
Nikiski at Homer, 6 p.m. today
The Mariners opened up their season by beating Eielson 12-7 last week. Eielson is typically the class of the Greatland Conference.
It would stand to reason that this game would be a good measuring stick for Homer’s chances in the conference this year.
“It is and it isn’t,” said Nikiski coach Ned Clooten in response to the measuring stick question. “I think it’s a great measuring stick, but we’ll also be getting about eight kids back next week.”
The eight players are missing due to a variety of things, like injuries and ineligibilities. Clooten said he will get three starters back, plus a lot more depth.
In the meantime, Clooten is looking for his squad to build on last week’s victory over the East junior varsity. He knows Homer, a playoff team last year, will provide a much stiffer test.
“We have to be going out and executing, no matter who we’re facing on the football field,” Clooten said. “We just want to keep our mental errors down.”
Ketchikan at Kenai, 2 p.m. on Saturday
The Kings could not make it up for a game last week against Nikiski, but Kenai Central coach Jim Beeson said 16 players are expected to take on the Kardinals on Saturday. It will be the Northern Lights Conference opener for both teams.
“We really don’t know what to expect,” Beeson said. “It will be a league game, though, so we can’t overlook them.”
More than concentrating on Ketchikan, the Kards are working on getting their own house in order after a 39-0 loss to Juneau last week.
Just before the game, Kenai lost four players to suspension for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Two of those four players, including starting tailback Bill Chimphalee, will be back this week.
“From an offensive standpoint, him being back can’t hurt us at all,” Beeson said. “In many ways, it will be like our first game all over again.”
Beeson said his defense played a solid game against Juneau, giving up just one play over 30 yards, but said the offense put the defense in numerous tough spots.
“We have to get things on track offensively,” Beeson said. “We aren’t that far off defensively.”
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