The Kenai Central High School football defeated Seward Friday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai, keeping its perfect record intact.
But for the Kardinals, Friday's win wasn't as polished as the 41-14 score and the 4-0 season record might indicate.
"Seward's a good football team -- they could have won this game," said Kenai coach Jim Beeson. "I never felt comfortable at any time. The score was no indication of how close this football game was."
While both teams were able to move the ball with success on offense, Kenai was able to pull away from Seward by taking advantage of opportunities on special teams. The Kardinals turned two blocked punts in the first half into touchdowns, returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a score, and added one more touchdown after the snap on a Seward fourth-quarter punt play sailed over the punter's head.
Kenai's special teams set up one more touchdown when the kickoff unit recovered a squib kick on the Seward 33-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Add it all up, and Kenai's special teams set up or scored 33 of the Kardinals' 41 points while Seward scored 14 points just moving the ball up and down the field.
"We worked a lot on blocking punts this week," said Kenai's Cory Janson, who serves as the kick and punt returner on special teams. "We've been getting in there, and we've been working hard at getting the ball. That helped a lot. It was a key area, and it gave us a lot of momentum."
Seward put the first points of the game on the board just 28 seconds into the first quarter. Zack Rininger broke a reverse for 67 yards on the first play from scrimmage, then scored on a 6-yard scamper.
Kenai punted its first possession away, but Drew Cramer came up with the first of the Kardinals' blocked punts to set up Kenai on the Seward 29. Janson capped the drive with a 12-yard run to tie the score at 6.
Kenai's defense then penned the Seahawks in their own end, and Kenai took its first lead of the game by covering 58 yards in four plays, all of them runs by Janson. Janson scored on a 1-yard rushing play and quarterback Michael Tunseth connected with Cramer for the two-point conversion and a 14-6 lead.
"We haven't had a whole lot of adversity since the first week of the season," Beeson said. "We did respond in a situation where we could've just quit."
Kenai's Jacob La Shot got his body in front of a Seward punt early in the second quarter, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by Wally Ward.
Seward answered with a long scoring drive late in the quarter, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Jonah Swiderski 26 seconds before the half. Seward quarterback Garrett Boyle notched the two-point conversion on a keeper.
Janson grabbed the momentum right back for the Kardinals, though, returning the opening kick of the second half 68 yards. Jamie Montgomery added the PAT for a 28-14 Kenai lead.
"It was a big momentum swing when we came all the way back with that kick return," Janson said.
Kenai scored fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 5-yard run by Janson and a 22-yard pass play from Tunseth to Nick Barnes.
Janson finished the game with 202 yards on 25 carries.
"I had some good blocks and I broke some things," Janson said.
"With Cory's speed, that's all it takes," added Ward, Janson's lead blocker at fullback. "We just keep running and getting the yards."
Kenai's Cory Janson pulls down Seward's Johah Swiderski in the second quarter Friday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
Seward coach Dan Bohrnsen said he felt like he was playing with half a team after losing running back and linebacker Darian Draper to ankle injury prior to the game, then seeing fullback Swiderski go down in the third quarter.
"We couldn't replace (Draper) at running back and linebacker," Bohrnsen said. "We did OK, then our fullback got hurt. There were just too many leaks. When (the Kardinals) started pulling their guards, you've gotta have a linebacker that can read the play."
KARDINALS 41, SEAHAWKS 14
Seward 6 8 0 0 -- 14
Kenai 14 7 7 13 -- 41
Sew -- Rininger 6 run (pass failed), 11:32
Ken -- Janson 12 run (kick blocked), 3:11
Ken --Janson 1 run (Cramer pass from Tunseth), 0:07
Ken --Ward 3 run (Montgomery kick), 9:24
Sew -- Swiderski 1 run (Boyle run), 0:22
Ken --Janson 68 kickoff return (Montgomery kick), 11:47
Ken -- Janson 5 run (Montgomery kick), 8:08
Ken -- Barnes 22 pass from Tunseth (kick failed), 5:59
First downs 10 10
Rushes-yards 42-180 38-278
Passing yards 60 22
Return yards 12 26
Passing 7-13-1 1-3-0
Punts-avg 7-12.3 4-24.8
Fumbles-lost 2-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 4-45 9-80
Rushing -- Seward: Rininger 17-94, Boyle 12-40, Swiderski 9-34, Wolfe 4-12. Kenai: Janson 25-202, Ward 8-47, Craig 4-30, Tunseth 1-(-1).
Passing -- Seward: Boyle 7-13-1--60. Kenai: Tunseth 1-3-0--22.
Receiving -- Seward: Swiderski 3-36, Rininger 2-(-6), Wolfe 1-20, Blankenship 1-10. Kenai: Barnes 1-22.
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