With week three of the high school football season about to kick off, both Soldotna and Nikiski are readying themselves for big conference contests.
The Bulldogs will play their first Great Land Conference game today at Nikiski, hosting the Houston Hawks. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Stars, meanwhile, are packing their bags for a trip to “the rock” to play Kodiak in a Northern Lights Conference tilt Saturday. The starting time for that game has been moved up an hour, to 1 p.m.
“It’s a matter of overcoming adversity,” Soldotna coach Sarge Truesdell said of his team’s approach to the game. “It doesn’t matter if you’re wrestling, playing volleyball or basketball, when you go to the rock, you’re going to face some adversity.”
Other games involving peninsula teams this weekend include: Wasilla at Skyview in a nonconference game Friday at 6 p.m.; Homer at Ketchikan in an NLC game Friday at 7 p.m.; and Kenai at Seward for a nonconference game Saturday at 2 p.m.
Truesdell said his squad, 1-1 in nonconference play, was a bit banged up after grinding out a win against Palmer last weekend, but expected everyone to be ready to play against a 2-0 Kodiak team that appears to be playing up to its impressive potential.
“I think they’ve arrived,” Truesdell said of the Bears, who have been tagged as an up-and-comer for the past few seasons. “We played them in week two last year, and they dang near beat us. They’re not up and coming, they’re here. The squad they brought out on the field (against Skyview last week) looks to be the most talented team in the small-schools division.”
Truesdell expects to face a well-balanced team which features a talented quarterback, an explosive running back, a pair of quality receivers and a line that can get the job done.
“They throw the ball extremely well I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was the scariest part of their offense,” Truesdell said.
By the same token, Truesdell said his squad was looking forward to the challenge.
“Our kids enjoy playing football. It’s a big week, and I think they realize what kind of opponent they’re going up against,” he said.
Mike Reed has carried the load on offense for the Stars, picking up 221 yards on the ground. Truesdell said he likes what he saw from Anthony Griglione in his first start at quarterback last week, noting that while there were some mistakes, there were also plenty of spectacular plays come crunch time.
Truesdell said he’s hoping to see some spark in his offense this week before the squad heads out.
“Talent-wise we’re good, but we’re not executing at the point we should be. We’re not firing on all cylinders,” Truesdell said.
Nikiski coach Ned Clooten said that, as usual, the Bulldogs would be treating their matchup with Houston as a big game.
“Houston is perennially at the top of our conference. We want to make sure the kids understand that even if it’s the first conference game, they still have to go hard,” Clooten said.
Clooten said his squad is just getting back to full strength and he is excited to see how the team will pull together for tonight’s game.
“On top of being at full strength, we’re also bringing two of our heavy hitters back this weekend, Kenny Fagan and Jaramiah Hundley. We’re excited to bring those two back and see how they can help us,” Clooten said.
Clooten said the Hawks, already 2-0 in GLC play, might be down in numbers this year, but a quick scan of the roster reveals plenty of talented athletes.
Beau Calderwood and Tyler Payment have led the Nikiski ground attack this season, and Corey Smith has thrown for 102 yards on 47 percent passing.
The Skyview Panthers will host Wasilla, which is 1-1 this season. The Warriors lost their season opener to Kodiak, then beat West Valley 9-7 last week.
The Panthers are coming off a loss to Kodiak, and will look to get back on the winning track behind Greg Bosick. Bosick currently leads peninsula running backs with 340 yards on 52 carries, an average of 6.5 yards per rush.
Bosick also has three touchdowns for the Panthers, who are 1-1 this season.
The Kenai Central Kardinals rebounded from their season-opening loss to state power Juneau-Douglas with a big win over NLC opponent Ketchikan last week. The Kardinals will head to Seward to face the 0-2 Seahawks.
The Seahawks have been able to make some big plays with their passing attack this season, but the Kardinals pounded out 265 yards on the ground last week while keeping Ketchikan in negative yards in total offense.
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