Panthers, Mariners set for rare Thursday tilt

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

A weekend off is never a bad thing, especially during moose season, so tonight at 7 p.m. Homer and Skyview will continue a tradition of playing their annual game on Thursday, and not the Friday and Saturday that is commonly used for high school football in Alaska.

"It's a long season," said Homer coach Todd Phillips. "It's nice to get a weekend off."

The game will be the Northern Lights Conference opener for both teams. With the race for the conference title expected to be up for grabs, a win for either team tonight would be a huge step in the right direction. Homer comes in 3-0, while Skyview is 2-1.

"That Skyview-Homer game is a huge game," Kenai coach Jim Beeson said. "Somebody is going to get the upper hand in the conference right away."

In order to get that upper hand, Phillips was even willing to wear a Skyview T-shirt to school Wednesday.

"I'm doing that to make the guys mad," Phillips said.

Each team will need every advantage it can get since the coaching staffs know each other so well. Skyview head coach Wade Marcuson was the JV offensive coach for a year when Phillips was the head JV coach in Homer.

Phillips also said he's good friends with many on the Skyview staff, including Greg Zorbas. Phillips and Zorbas spent four years together in Point Hope.

"We're all friends, but we compete hard to win, and we want to win in the worst way," Phillips said.

Seward coach Dan Bohrnsen has seen both Homer and Skyview, losing close games to both in the last two weeks.

"Both of them are pretty big -- Skyview has a big running back and so does Homer," Bohrnsen said. "They've both got big boys across the line on both sides.

"I think it will boil down to who doesn't make mistakes."

Phillips agrees.

"We run the same offense they do, and we've exchanged tapes twice, so I think we're pretty evenly matched," Phillips said. "It should come down to who makes the least mistakes."

While wanting to avoid mistakes, Marcuson also comes into the game knowing his defense will have to show improvement.

"I've been up pretty late trying to get ready," Marcuson said. "We're going to have to come up with a better defense than we've been showing."

Nikiski at Service at Anchorage Football Stadium, Saturday at 6 p.m.

The Bulldogs have said all along that they scheduled Chugiak and Service this year in order to make them a better team.

Saturday should give an indication of whether or not it's working.

The Bulldogs (2-1) opened up their season with a 12-7 loss to Chugiak. The game identified three things Nikiski, a school with just over 300 students, needed to hang with schools like Chugiak and Service, which have over 2,000 students.

The first was conditioning. After winning the first half against Chugiak, Nikiski ran out of gas in the second half.

"The best way you can get in shape for football is to play games," Anderson said. "The Chugiak game was really good for conditioning, plus the kids have worked hard in practice.

"I think we've addressed conditioning, and we'll see how much that helps us in this game."

Nikiski's secondary also had some problems keeping receivers in front of it against Chugiak. Another problem was receiver David Holloway was held to 36 yards receiving.

Holloway and quarterback Josh Reilly started hooking up last week against Soldotna, though, with Holloway grabbing three touchdowns for 133 yards.

"Our passing game is starting to click," Anderson said. "David has hit his stride, and Josh is on the money.

"If we can get that going again, we should play well this weekend."

Ketchikan at Soldotna, Friday at 6 p.m.

Despite being 0-3, the Stars, the defending NLC conference champs, are upbeat as they begin their conference schedule.

Soldotna has started its season with losses to Wasilla, West Valley and Nikiski, three of the better teams in the state.

"You can blame being 0-3 on me," Soldotna coach Rob Dimick said. "We've always played the best for years. We don't want to lose the flavor of playing the best teams."

Ketchikan has started its season 0-2 and has yet to score a point.

Seward at Kenai, Friday at 6 p.m.

After losing a bunch of key players from last year's team, Kenai coach Jim Beeson was expecting to have a few growing pains early in the season.

Although there have been some difficult moments, the Kardinals have cruised to a 3-0 start.

"I was just talking about that with (assistant coach) Jim (Dawson)," Beeson said. "Are we better than we thought we'd be, or are some of the other teams not as good as we thought they'd be?

"We decided the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle."

Beeson said the offensive line has been a lot better than he expected. The group has opened enough holes for Cory Janson to be the state's leading rusher.

The Kardinals should get a stiff test Friday, because Seward is a team that's played better than preseason expectations. The Seahawks have lost close games to Homer and Skyview in the past two weeks.

"Seward should be ready for Kenai's offense," Homer's Phillips said. "We run the same offense as Skyview and Kenai."

Seward's Bohrnsen also is expecting Kenai to be well-prepared.

"Jim Beeson probably puts in more time than any coach I know of studying plays," Bohrnsen said. "They'll probably know our plays before we run them. We just have to execute."

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