Before the season, the talk was that Skyview would be one of the favorites in the Northern Lights Conference.
Talk also had it that Seward, with 15 players not showing up for the team this year, would be down.
So what, then, was Seward doing leading Skyview 8-0 at the half last Saturday? How did the Seahawks manage to hold the lead until 2:25 left in the game, when Panthers quarterback Ely Evanson found Neil Darling for a touchdown pass to give Skyview a 19-14 victory?
The answer has a little to do with Skyview. Due to injuries, ineligibility and juniors adjusting to playing on varsity, coach Wade Marcuson said the Panthers haven't gotten off to a blazing start.
But the answer also has a lot to do with the Seahawks. As the game tape of the Seward-Skyview tilt circulated amongst the peninsula's football coaches, all have come away respecting the Seahawks.
"Seward's not big and they don't have a ton of guys, but they're quick, intense and they'll hit you on every play," said Homer coach Todd Phillips, whose team will take a 2-0 mark into Seward Saturday for a 2 p.m. game.
"From what I've seen on film, they look tough. Wade found out off film they're pretty tough, too."
Kenai Central head coach Jim Beeson, who's in his 12th year with the Kardinals, also got to watch Seward on film. So did Kenai assistant Jim Dawson, another longtime observer of the peninsula gridiron.
"I know Wade said Skyview didn't play real well in that game, but Seward had a lot to do with that," Beeson said. "Jim watched that tape, and the first thing he said to me when he handed me the tape was, 'Seward's for real.'"
Nikiski coach Scott Anderson, who has had many a battle with the Seahawks in the Great Land Conference since 1997, isn't surprised that the doomsday predictions for the Seahawks weren't accurate.
"I kind of figured, coming into the season, that Seward would be a tough team," Anderson said. "They hardly lost any seniors last year, and (coach) Dan (Bohrnsen) always has all his players playing up to their potential.
"They're always a nasty defensive team. They'll claw and scratch and do what it takes to stay in a ballgame. That's the nature of Seward kids."
Bohrnsen said that coming into the Skyview game, he was hoping to stay with the Panthers. In the end, he said the Seahawks (1-1) would have won if not for a blown defensive assignment on a fourth-and-12 and a muffed punt.
"I wasn't lying at the beginning of the season -- we've only got six returning varsity players," Bohrnsen said. "We lost 15 guys who didn't come out this year.
"They just didn't show up."
As a result, the 25 players that suited up for Skyview were all of the players in Seward's program.
"I've got five or six guys that could start for anybody," Bohrnsen said. "That's why we played Skyview pretty tough."
Of course, a football team is only as good as its weakest link, so Bohrnsen is worried about what will happen as game film starts making the rounds.
"We really shocked Skyview," Bohrnsen said. "Now, the word's out and once you've got a film, you can find weaknesses pretty easily.
"We'll just have to come up with some more magic to see what we can do as far as staying with Homer."
Soldotna at Nikiski, 5:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs (1-1) did their part to make this a repeat of last year's small-schools state championship, losing only a few players from their 2000 squad.
Graduation wasn't so kind to the Stars (0-2). About 19 Soldotna players expired their high school football eligibility after the 20-14 loss to Nikiski at Anchorage Football Stadium last year.
However, there will be one key returner on the Soldotna sideline that has Anderson worried.
"All I know is (Stars coach) Rob Dimick gets his kids ready to play," Anderson said. "Coming in, we're expecting a good ballgame.
"We think they'll come up to meet the challenge."
With the return of Dimick comes the return of his ground-hugging offense. Dimick was impressed with the scheme the Nikiski coaching staff came up with to stop his offense in the state championship game, but Anderson said the true credit rests with the players.
"It's more of the kids willing to do what it takes," Anderson said. "You have to play a down-and-dirty defense if you want to stop Soldotna.
"If you're going to stop them, you have to be willing to get stomped and trampled."
Meanwhile, Dimick said his team must use ball control and field position to slow down Nikiski's high octane offense.
"If we're turning the ball over a lot and making them go just 40 yards for the touchdown, we're in trouble," Dimick said. "Nikiski's a scary outfit."
Skyview at Anchorage Christian Schools, 6 p.m. at Anchorage Football Stadium
Marcuson is hoping his team can jump-start its season against the Lions, who have been outscored 100-25 in their first two games of the season.
"Since the beginning of the season, we've had injury problems, ineligibility problems and kids who haven't figured out the name of the game yet," said Marcuson, who had nine kids ineligible for the Seward game.
The coach said his team may have been a little overconfident coming into the season after reading they were picked to take the Northern Lights Conference.
"I think we're starting to realize how hard we're going to have to work to win games," Marcuson said. "They've been working hard and getting better, but they have to realize they have to work harder than the other team if they're going to win."
In order to pick up the pace, Marcuson has put the team on notice that starting spots are up for grabs. Grades in the game against ACS will go toward determining who plays in the conference opener on Aug. 30 against Homer.
Ketchikan at Kenai Central,
After a couple of road wins, a young Kardinals squad opens its home schedule with a bright outlook.
"We've had some success playing with young kids, and that's the best thing that could have happened to us," Beeson said. "It's given those kids confidence, and we'll need that when we start playing the Skyviews, Homers and Soldotnas."
Last year, Ketchikan finished 0-6 and was outscored 285-34 over the course of the season. The team finished the season with just 13 players in uniform.
The Kings opened their season last week with a loss to Sitka, but Beeson saw the tape of the game and is convinced Ketchikan is an improved outfit.
"I talked to the coach at Sitka (Scott McAdams) and he said it's the best he's seen them in the five years he's been there," Beeson said. "It's not going to be like last year, when you could just show up and beat them."
Beeson was particularly impressed with the Kings' tenacity on defense, although he's hoping running back Cory Janson's speed will still be able to break off a few long runs.
On offense, Ketchikan likes to throw the ball. Beeson said that will be a good test for his young defense, which got caught looking in the backfield a few times last week against ACS and yielded 105 passing yards.
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