Sure, this is Kenai's third straight road game, but at least this week the Kardinals get to take an actual road trip.
Kenai, fresh off a plane ride to Ketchikan in Week 2 and a boat ride to Kodiak in Week 3, will make the relatively tame drive to Nikiski for a rivalry matchup with the Bulldogs at 6 p.m. on Friday.
With Nikiski coming off a long drive to Valdez in Week 3, both teams will be happy to be playing close to home. Both teams also will be looking to get over tough losses.
The Bulldogs (1-2 overall) lost to Valdez 28-20 while the Kardinals (2-1 overall) lost 28-27 to the Bears. Both conference losses put both teams behind the eight ball in the race to get into the small-schools playoffs, but all that can be forgotten in this nonconference grudge match.
The Thursday before the Kodiak game, Kenai took a 22 1/2-hour ferry ride to Kodiak from Whittier. Following the game, at midnight Kenai took an eight-hour boat ride back to Homer.
"There's a lot of things the kids could be using as an excuse not to play well, with school starting and the long trips we've had in the past couple of weeks," Kenai coach Jim Beeson said. "This is the perfect time for a rivalry game because they will be motivated."
The game also is a rare chance for central peninsula prep football fans to actually see some football. There were no games on the central peninsula in Week 3 and just one area game in Week 2. Friday night's contest is the only local affair in Week 4.
The game will feature the statistical leaders on the peninsula in passing, running, receiving and scoring.
Kenai's Daniel Gustkey leads the peninsula with 196 yards and five touchdowns on 13-of-20 passing, while Wiley Bennett is second at 9-of-31 for 172 yards. In rushing, Kenai's Bill Chimphalee is tops with 680 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Beau Calderwood is second with 473 yards.
Nikiski's Evan Holloway has caught the most balls on the peninsula with eight for 70, while Kenai's Cody Booth is right behind with six catches for 76 yards. Finally, Chimphalee leads all scorers on the peninsula with 86 points.
"It's always kind of been a bit of a rivalry because they've been the bigger school, and we've been the baby brother," said Nikiski coach Ted Riddall. "That makes it a bigger game than most.
"It's another opportunity to go out and showcase our program and take another step in getting better."
Riddall said a big key to the game will be containing Chimphalee and sustaining blocks. Not surprisingly, Beeson said his squad will continue to work on diversifying the offense.
"We're going to continue to try and throw the football," Beeson said. "Daniel can throw the ball, and we've got kids that can catch it. We know teams are going to be keying on Bill."
The Bears, 2-0 in the Northern Lights Conference and 2-1 overall, can take a major step toward wrapping up a playoff berth, which goes to the league's top two teams, by defeating the Panthers. If Kodiak can top Skyview, its only remaining conference games are against Ketchikan and Soldotna, and Ketchikan had been outscored 87-0 this year.
Skyview, meanwhile, will be opening its conference schedule with the Bears.
"This is an important game for us," Skyview coach Gerry Byrne said. "It's a must-win game. We have the talent to do it."
Byrne said the Panthers lost several key players before last week's loss to Wasilla.
"We couldn't run some of the plays we wanted to run," Byrne said. "This week, we've got kids more familiar with some of the plays."
Byrne said the challenge will be stopping Kodiak running back Michael Odell, who rushed for 111 yards against Kenai, and quarterback Jimmy Eggemeyer, who had 89 yards rushing and 109 yards passing against the Kardinals.
The Stars, 3-0 overall, open their NLC schedule against the Kings, who are 0-2 in the league and overall and have been outscored 87-0.
"Getting down there, and having our kids away from all the distractions, should be a good team-building opportunity for us," SoHi coach Galen Brantley Sr. said.
The Stars also should get a chance to further flex their running attack, which has gained 1,210 yards in three games to easily top the peninsula. Brantley Jr. said the team will rest lineman Josh Denna to make sure he is healthy down the stretch.
Kenai, Nikiski glad to be close to homeAt 0-1 in the Great Land Conference, the Seahawks face a must-win game if they want to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth. Delta is 0-3 in the league and overall and is coming off a forfeit last week against Houston.
Seward coach Kelly Cinereski said he doesn't know anything about Delta. He said he hopes his squad can rebound after a 49-7 loss to Soldotna.
"We need to work on tackling," Cinereski said. "That, and staying healthy, are very big."Area gridiron rivals look to rebound after tough losses on long road trips
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