WASILLA After one half of football Saturday afternoon, the Wasilla Warriors found themselves mired in a defensive standoff with the Skyview Panthers. Struggling to move the ball against the Panthers, Wasilla led 10-0, but had failed to score offensively and was outgained 65-32 on the ground.
In the locker room, Wasilla coach Jim Shetter delivered a simple message to his troops in the trenches.
"Coach just said to the offensive line that we were playing timid," Wasilla senior tackle Zach Orr said. "We were thinking too much instead of just going at them."
The Warriors came out and dominated up front, lighting up the school's brand-new scoreboard with 28 second-half points en route to a 38-0 thumping of the Northern Lights Conference Panthers, the third-ranked squad at the small-schools level.
"Our biggest thing was getting our offensive line to make a new line of scrimmage," Shetter said following the win, which moved the Warriors to 3-0 for the first time since the 1999 season.
While Wasilla was waiting for its wishbone offense to get rolling, the defense and special teams were keeping the Panthers at bay. Thanks to a Wasilla fumble and a failed fourth-down conversion try, the Panthers twice marched to within three yards of the Wasilla end zone in the opening quarter before being turned back.
The game remained tied until 9:01 in the second, when Joe Barkley fielded a Skyview punt at his own 38-yard-line, cut right, and sprinted 68 yards, untouched, to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
Derek Cottle-Bosch added a 40-yard field goal late in the frame to send the Warriors into the locker room clinging to a 10-0 advantage.
Then the running game took over.
Mixing carries between Barkley, Mike Chafin and Beebo Russel, the Warriors pounded the Panthers on the ground in the second half. Barkley picked up his second touchdown of the game midway through the quarter, following a convoy of blockers into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run.
Junior Tim Orr set up Barkley's third touchdown of the day by intercepting Skyview quarterback Matt Meade deep in Panthers territory late in quarter. Two plays later, he scampered in from four yards out for his second score in less than two minutes of action.
Barkley finished with 44 yards on the ground, while Chafin added 57 and Russel chipped in 35.
Tim Orr recorded his second pick of the day and set up the Warriors' next score when he stepped in front of a Michael Thornton pass midway through the fourth quarter. One play later, Wasilla quarterback Adrese LaVern hit receiver Patrick Campbell in stride for a 30-yard scoring strike.
Chafin was responsible for setting up the final Wasilla tally of the afternoon. The diminutive running back, who stands at just 5-foot-2 pounded his way up the middle for a couple big runs, then threw a perfect downfield block to spring Chris Bydlon for a 24-yard scamper.
Following the game, Chafin a runner-up at 125 pounds at last year's state wrestling tournament said he enjoys punishing opposing players who might take him for granted.
"I just kind of hide behind the blockers and throw a few jukes, but if I have to run over someone, I will," he said.
Skyview head coach Gerry Byrne said Saturday's nonconference loss was just a case of his team possessing a lack of depth compared to the large-schools squad.
"They just wore us down," Byrne said. "We're not very deep."
Byrne credited Wasilla for keeping the Panthers out of the end zone early in the game.
"You've got to hand it to their defense," he said.
Skyview (2-1 overall, 0-0 Northern Lights Conference) next faces Kodiak in a NLC showdown that could go a long way toward determining which NLC team grabs one of the conference's two playoff spots.
"The kids are getting fired up for next week," he said. "We're still pretty optimistic."
The Warriors (3-0 overall, 1-0 Railbelt Conference) have a big conference match-up of their own to worry about next week, when they'll host North Pole Friday night with a chance to pick up a second conference win and remain on top of the Railbelt Conference standings.
Wasilla's Zach Orr said it's going to take a solid week of practice in order to prepare for the Patriots, which lost to Juneau 30-13 on Saturday.
"We're going to practice full-bore," Orr said.
With a winning streak to protect and a key conference game on the line, Mike Chafin added that the team is hoping for a big turnout at Veterans Memorial Field next weekend.
"Hopefully, we can get that Warrior spirit back."
Contact Matt Tunseth at 352-2265 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wasilla 38, Skyview 0
Wasilla 0 10 14 14 38
Skyview 0 0 0 0 0
Wasilla Barkley 68 punt return (Cottle-Bosch kick), 9:01.
Wasilla Cottle-Bosch 40 field goal, 4:19.
Wasilla Barkley 9 run (Cottle-Bosch kick), 6:12.
Wasilla Barkley 4 run (Cottle-Bosch kick), 4:34.
Wasilla Campbell 30 pass from LaVern (Cottle-Bosch kick), 6:42.
Wasilla Bydlon 24 run (Cottle-Bosch kick), 3:08.
First downs 8 5
Rushes-yards 29-156 46-93
Passing yards 62 5
Return yards 86 33
Comp-att-int 4-11-1 3-7-2
Punts 2-41.0 4-30.3
Fumbles-lost 1-1 4-1
Penalties-yards 7-40 3-22
RUSHING Wasilla: Chafin 10-57, Barkley 7-44, Russel 8-35, Bydlon 2-20, LaVern 1-1, Katchinska 1-(-1). Skyview: Fine 16-51, Cobb 8-42, Lapp 10-19, West 4-2, Meade 3-2, Thornton 5-(-23).
PASSING Wasilla: LaVern 4-11-1-62. Skyview: Meade 3-5-1-5, Thornton 0-2-1-0.
RECEIVING Wasilla: Campbell 1-30, Green 1-16, T. Orr 1-8, Chafin 1-8. Skyview: Lapp 2-5, Shirnberg 1-0.
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