Normally, it's dogs that generate a Pavlovian response when thinking about their next meal.
But the Kenai Central High School Kardinals are licking their chops in anticipation of this evenings' gridiron clash with Nikiski.
"We're drooling over it," said Kenai lineman Sepa Nicholas-Silvira after last week's Kenai win over Ketchikan.
Local rivalries highlights this weekend's prep schedule as the Kardinals (1-1) host the Bulldogs (2-0) at 6:30 p.m. at Ed Hollier Field, and the Skyview Panthers (1-1) host the Soldotna Stars (0-2) with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. at Skyview.
The other two peninsula squads see each other this weekend as the Seward Seahawks (0-2) visit Homer to face the Mariners (1-0) Saturday at 3 p.m.
A week ago, Kenai's front five of Nicholas-Silvira, Dane Myers, Dominic Plasencia, Tony Bowers and Bryce Stanton dictated the pace of the game both on offense and on defense.
Nikiski's linemen played equally well in the Bulldogs' shutout of Sitka, but it was Nikiski's backfield and receivers that tipped the scales in the Bulldogs' favor.
Quarterback Josh Reilly completed nine of the 10 passes he threw, wideout David Holloway caught eight passes for 108 yards and four touchdowns, and seven different Bulldog backs combined for 163 rushing yards.
Kenai's running game also was impressive, racking up 302 yards against Ketchikan. The Kardinals were able to mix things up with some straight handoffs, a little bit of misdirection and a several option plays.
"I really don't know what to expect," said Nikiski coach Scott Anderson. "If we're executing like we should, we can move the ball and put points on the board. Then again, both defenses put up good numbers last week."
Anderson said that his players have excited all week in practice, but that he's stressed to them the importance of staying focused on the task at hand.
"It's got to be business as usual," Anderson said. "They need to focus on their own level of performance."
Soldotna heads into Friday's game at Skyview with a pair of non-conference losses to the two teams that played for last year's state championship.
Stars coach Rob Dimick said that isn't sure what to expect from his matchup, either.
"Physically, we're OK, but mentally, we need to be ready to play," Dimick said.
Dimick said that lineman Billy Moiles has been playing well, and that he was impressed with linebacker Houston Morris' four-sack performance against Service.
Dimick added that running backs Sean Kelley, Shaun Williams and Morris are picking up the nuances of the Stars double-wing offense.
Skyview, meanwhile, would like to exorcise some of the demons from last year's game in which a determined Soldotna team brought the high-flying Panthers tumbling back down to earth.
Dimick is envisioning a game more reminiscent of the 1998 meeting between the two teams, which the Panthers won by a point, 13-12.
"I think it could be a defensive battle," Dimick said. "I know they've scouted us well and they know what we like to do. They'll have a good plan for us. It might be that type of game where whoever has the football last has a chance to win."
Skyview defeated Seward last week for it's first win of the season, but coach Wade Marcuson saw plenty of room for improvement in his squad. Skyview quarterback Eli Evanson threw for 156 yards and one touchdown and ran for another last week while Travis Endsley carried the ball for 148 yards and a touchdown.
"I think both teams have done what they needed to do to prepare," Dimick said. "Now, we go out and play."
The Seahawks are still looking for a win after losses to Sitka and to Skyview while, Homer, which defeated Ketchikan in week one, did not play last weekend.
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