With a 28-0 shutout of Kodiak, Soldotna improved to 2-0 and jumped ahead of Kenai Central to claim the No. 1 small-schools ranking in the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Poll heading into Week 3. The Kardinals (1-1), who dropped a 20-13 game to Service, fell to No. 2. Thunder Mountain (2-0), Houston (2-0) and Eielson (1-1) are ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Kodiak (1-1) and Nikiski (1-1) also received votes in the poll.
Here's a look at this week's matchups.
Nikiski at Thunder Mountain, Friday 8 p.m.
The Bulldogs are coming off of a 34-6 win over Delta Junction while the Falcons downed Homer 23-12 to remain undefeated. Nikiski added players to its roster last week. Perhaps none more beneficial than Stefan Krogseng. Krogseng scored three touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs.
"He gave us a pretty good lift there," Bulldogs head coach Ted Riddall said.
Kaden Spurgeon rushed for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Thunder Mountain running back Cameron Fronimos led his team with 119 yards two scores over the Mariners.
"They gave Homer a great game," Riddall said. "I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how our kids respond to a quality team at this stage of the game."
Riddall said his team is looking forward to a night game on Thunder Mountain's artificial playing surface.
"We haven't ever played under the lights on turf," he said.
Nikiski will need to stop the Falcons' powerful running game and shut down their top receiver.
"They ran the ball pretty good against Homer," Riddall said. "We'll have to be bringing our A game in that phase of the game."
Riddall said Nikiski worked on covering the B gap at practice this week.
"That's where they run," he said. "Get pressure in that area and cover their receiver. That's the plan."
The Bulldogs are hoping to continue to produce on offense, Riddall said.
"We want to take off were we left off from Delta," he said.
Kenai at Houston, Saturday 3 p.m.
Stopping Northern Lights Conference rival Houston's running game will be crucial for success, Kenai head coach Jeff Baker said.
"They run the ball 90 percent of the time," he said. "They're a grind-it-out, pound-it-at-you football team."
Houston is coming off of a decisive 37-0 victory over Ketchikan.
"We look forward to another game to get a good assessment of the kids and where they are," Baker said.
The Kards will have several more personnel to gauge this week, as many previously ineligible kids returned to the team. Baker said practice was used to figure out where each newcomer belongs on the field.
While stopping the run is important on defense, being able to run will be key on offense, Baker said.
"Pound it on the ground and hopefully this week we'll get a chance to turn AJ (Hull) loose," he said. "We're not really a big play team. We're an in-your-face, grind-it-out kind of team."
Team unity was the message practice this week, Baker said. It was tough to take a close loss, so responding well against Houston is important, he said.
"The kids learned a great deal," Baker said of the loss to Service. "I don't think we'll face another team that fast."
SoHi at Homer, Saturday 3 p.m.
Eight fumbles weren't enough to keep the Stars from returning from The Rock with a win in Week 2. SoHi held the Bears to just 30 yards of total offense. Phil Bennett led the Stars with three touchdowns and 144 rushing yards.
"It was just a tremendous defensive effort," Stars head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. It was one of the best defensive displays by a Soldotna team in the last seven to eight years, he said.
The game against NLC foe Homer will differ greatly from last week, Brantley Jr. said.
"Homer is not the same kind of offense," he said. "They are happy with slow play. It's a total different beast."
Mariners head coach Camron Wyatt agreed.
"We're more than happy to take 3 yards, and they are too," he said.
Homer added 11 players and one more play -- for a grand total of four -- to its team this week. Preventing SoHi from gaining big plays will be needed if the Mariners want to notch their second win in a decade over the Stars.
"They try to break you with that big play," Wyatt said. "Our goal is no big plays. Make them earn every yard."
Homer's skinny playbook is nothing to scoff at, Brantley Jr. said.
"They choose to do a little well instead of a lot of stuff," he said. "They gave us one heck of a run last year in the semifinal game."
SoHi scored two touchdowns and added a field goal in the fourth quarter to win 44-20 and advance to last year's small-schools state championship.
"We have four plays and about 20 kids, and we're gonna go to battle with them," Wyatt said. "If you're gonna make your mark, this is the team you have to make it against."
"The big challenge defensively for us is stopping their offense," Brantley Jr. said. "They just try and outnumber you at the point of attack."
Homer and Soldotna know each other well.
"We practice against them more than anybody else in the state," Wyatt said.
"The familiarity definitely hurts with the deception," Brantley Jr. said of his offensive scheme.
Though the Mariners will be prepared for SoHi's running attack, Brantley Jr. is a smart coach and will have his team ready to play, Wyatt said.
"Really what it boils down to is a lot of athleticism," he said.
SoHi, which has fumbled 14 times this season, needs to take care of the football, Brantley Jr. said. The Stars have won two ballgames but lost the turnover margin. SoHi can't continue to win like that, Brantley Jr. said.
Playing all four quarters will be key for Homer, Wyatt said.
"Our kids are excited. They would like to see themselves play 60 minutes of good football," he said. "It would be nice to walk away with a win this weekend."
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