Prior to last week's game at Palmer, Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. was concerned with his defense after allowing 42 points to large-school opponent North Pole in Week 1.
Consider that worry officially gone.
The defending small-schools champions limited another large-school foe in the Moose to just 14 points, none until late in the third quarter, and a mere 10 yards passing in winning 47-14 and improving to 2-0 in the young season.
"We finally put together a complete game," Brantley said. "Offensively, we continued to roll. Defensively, finally, we put it all together and did an excellent job and our special teams were great for us, too."
But with each victory, the target on their backs continues to grow.
"The bull's-eye is definitely getting bigger," he said. "It would be an even bigger reward for one of these schools to knock us off at this point.
"Our kids are doing fine," Brantley added of any pressure they may be feeling. "We put in probably the hardest week of conditioning that we had all year just to prove to our kids that we're not going to take anybody light."
He was referring specifically to the Seahawks, who fell to 0-2 after Barrow scored twice in the final three minutes in notching a tight 18-16 win in the first game on their new blue artificial turf.
"We saw Seward at our jamboree," he said. "We know they've got some solid kids. We know they are a very well-coached team."
Making today's 6 p.m. showdown more challenging for the Stars is a back injury suffered by leading rusher Marvin Tate, who's racked up 274 yards and six touchdowns in the first two games, but will sit out against Seward.
"I think we're going to continue to do what we do, run the football and play good defense," Brantley said. "It's not a season-ending thing. We've got some capable kids and we're taking the opportunity to get him ready for the stretch."
Kenai at Kodiak, 2 p.m. Saturday
It doesn't take a genius to decipher the Kardinals' game plan entering the third week of the season.
Two words: Bill Chimphalee.
Totaling a Kenai Peninsula-best 502 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns 12 overall in only two games, the senior running back is coming off one of the most impressive performances in Kenai history, racking up eight touchdowns in roughly three quarters of play during a 61-0 pounding at Ketchikan last week.
While Kodiak, at 1-1, is clearly a more formidable opponent than the Kings and Houston, which Kenai equally destroyed 46-0 in Week 1, the Kardinals' offensive strategy isn't likely to change in a battle to join Soldotna for Northern Lights Conference supremacy.
After falling 41-0 at Juneau in their opener, the Bears earned a much-needed victory at Homer last week, rushing for 259 yards and passing for another 161 in a 40-12 win over the Mariners and are looking to build on that momentum.
The Kardinals, on the other hand, are looking to avenge last year's 19-0 home setback to Kodiak.
Skyview at Wasilla, 3 p.m. Saturday
As if the Panthers already didn't have their hands full with the Warriors this weekend, news that leading rusher Eddie Buffington is sidelined for this week and maybe next could deflate a team that's coming off a 6-0 victory at Valdez.
However, coach Jerry Byrne said that's not the case.
"I think the other kids are going to step up," he said. "The team still has pretty high spirits and we're optimistic."
But he's not downplaying the importance of losing a senior who has rushed for 448 yards and three TDs in two victories season.
"It's huge," Byrne said. "But we do have some other folks who can come in."
He doesn't think it will affect them on the defensive side of the ball, though, with Matt Meade scheduled to fill Buffington's spot.
"I think we're comparable to what we were before" on defense, he said. "We probably won't be as strong on offense."
Facing a Wasilla squad that's knocked off Eagle River and West Valley, Byrne said the Panthers will read the Warriors' defense and possibly air the ball out more.
"We've been working on our passing. We're just going to see how it works. We're going to go in and feel for where their weaknesses are," he explained. "The kids have been really been doing well on defense. We've been looking really good this week. I think we can keep it up.
"This will tell a lot about our character," Byrne added. "The kids will really be able to step it up."
Nikiski at Valdez, 1 p.m. Saturday
Coming off an impeccable performance against Delta Junction in Week 2, junior running back Beau Calderwood is sure to see his fair share of carries when the Bulldogs travel to Valdez.
Calderwood broke loose for 230 yards and three TDs in a 40-0 win over the Huskies, making it easy for Nikiski coach Ted Riddall to say he'll be running the ball plenty.
"We're going to try and get him outside as much as possible. Their field's not in the best condition. It's pretty sandy and gravely up the middle of the field," he explained. "That's what slowed down (Skyview's) Buffington last week. He didn't have the opportunity to make too many cuts.
"We're hoping to make a cut and get vertical."
The same goes for their aerial attack, which improved last week to the tune of 65 yards on 5-of-11 passing.
"On that field, you definitely want to hit one big or something. You definitely want to get a big play here or there," Riddall said. "We're really trying to spread them out. We've got Sheridan Olsen, the receiver on the left, and a little to (Evan) Holloway, that should help quite a bit."
Homer at Ketchikan, noon, Saturday
Homer at Sitka, 5 p.m. Tuesday
Compared to playing Kodiak in Week 2, the Mariners don't have much of a test this week in Ketchikan, which is coming off a 61-0 thrashing by Kenai.
Couple that with a game at Sitka only three days later, however, and Homer has quite a challenging road trip in store.
"It's going to be rough down there because their fields are a little bit rusty," Mariners' coach Camron Wyatt said. "We took the 20 best kids we can put together and away we go. We've got a lot of young bucks who are going to break out this week."
Falling 40-12 at home against the Bears, the Mariners are looking to notch a pair of victories and improve to 3-1 at the halfway mark of the season.
"We thought we'd do a little bit better against Kodiak than we did. They jumped on us quickly and then they brought it down on us. They have some speed around the corners we couldn't match," he said. "I thought (we) did pretty good with holding (ourselves) together. They're young and they haven't been in that position at all."
Wyatt said his team learned a thing or two from the lopsided setback.
"This week is going to be a different story. The Mariners are going to come out hot and heavy at the get-go," he said. "Last week I think they learned a lesson about waiting around for things to happen. I think they've got to take control of the game right away. That's their focus this week anyway."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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