With a decisive victory over Houston, Soldotna remains unbeaten and retained its No. 1 ranking among small-schools football in the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network poll heading into Week 5. Another close loss to a large-school opponent dropped Kenai Central (2-2) to fourth. Thunder Mountain (4-0) jumped to the No. 2 spot and Eielson (3-1) is ranked third. Skyview (3-1) held on to the fifth spot for a second week in a row. The Panthers are on a three-game winning streak after losing their first game of the season. Kodiak (2-2) also received votes in the poll.
Here's a look at this week's matchups:
SoHi at Skyview, Friday 6 p.m.
The Stars make the short trip to Skyview for their fourth consecutive Northern Lights Conference game. SoHi leads all Kenai Peninsula teams with 1,189 rushing yards while the Panthers have the most through the air with 717.
"They do a real nice job on offense," Stars head coach Galen Brantley Jr. said of Skyview. "They'll spread you out.
"They have some nice receivers with Albert White and Richard Reynolds."
White is the peninsula's top receiver with 305 yards and five touchdowns with Reynolds following with 245 yards and four scores.
Quarterback Jordan Jones accounts for all of Skyview's passing yards and has thrown for 11 touchdowns to lead all peninsula passers.
"They're definitely a lot more dynamic than anything we've seen all year," Brantley Jr. said.
SoHi's Phil Bennett leads on the ground with 517 yards and seven trips to the end zone. SoHi trails Kenai by 15 yards of total offense and has the top local defense, allowing just 27 points against all season.
"We have to be really, really disciplined in our reads and tackle well," Panthers head coach Eric Pomerleau said. "We need to play really strong, physical football."
To combat SoHi's Wing-T, each player on defense must be lined up correctly and take care of their own, individual responsibility, Pomerleau said.
"That's the only way you can stop the Wing-T," he said.
Skyview takes chances down the field and has athletes capable of making big plays, Brantley Jr. said. SoHi needs to force the Panthers to drive the length of the field, he said.
"The biggest key is to limit the big plays," Brantley Jr. said.
On offense, the Stars' game plan remains the same.
"We need to come out and establish the run," Brantley Jr. said.
Using the entire field will be key for Skyview's offense.
"We just have to use our speed and spread people out and try to make plays in space," Pomerleau said.
The Panthers are riding a three-game winning streak. The team buying Pomerleau's game plan is a major factor for SkyHi's success.
"The more we keep building on our philosophy and our scheme, the more confident we get in it," Pomerleau said. "We're just able to make more plays."
West Valley at Kenai, Saturday 2 p.m.
The Kardinals' tough nonconference schedule continues with the Wolfpack coming to town. Despite losing close games to Palmer and Service, playing large-schools has benefited Kenai, head coach Jeff Baker said.
"Literally one play or one call or one break or one of a hundred things go differently, we'd sit here having beat those two schools," he said. "I'm ecstatic with the kids."
When the final weeks of the season come, Kenai will be better prepared having played large-schools, Baker said.
"We were in a position to win either game," he said. "I feel really good about what the kids have done."
The Kards have the top-ranked offense on the peninsula with a total of 1,334 yards. AJ Hull leads his team with 447 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns, more than any other local player. Hull has also thrown for 265 yards and four scores.
The Kards' second-ranked defense has allowed opposing teams to gain 833 yards and 70 points.
Baker has preached staying healthy all season, and his message at practice remained the same this week.
"Our goal is to get better and not get injured," he said. "We've been fortunate enough not to get injured."
As was the plan against Service and Palmer, Baker hopes to chew up the clock with the running game against West Valley. Solid defense, too, will be needed, he said.
Homer at Kodiak, Saturday 2 p.m.
The Mariners' postseason hopes hinge on every game for the rest of the season. Having lost to Skyview and SoHi, Homer must beat either NLC foes Kenai or Kodiak to extend its season past Week 8, head coach Camron Wyatt said.
"Right now the Mariners are in playoff mode for the rest of the season," he said. "Our game plan has got to go off without a flaw."
Wyatt has taken his already skinny playbook and simplified it even more. The team voted on the five plays with which it feel most comfortable. That is what the Mariners worked on all week and those five will be used against the Bears, Wyatt said.
"It's back to fundamentals. It's back to Mariner ball," he said. "We need to use our athleticism and be in the right spot."
Homer will need a much-improved performance than the effort given in its 32-8 loss to SkyHi last week, Wyatt said. Tackling was the main problem, he said.
"The Mariners will have to play a lot more aggressive," Wyatt said.
Kodiak has the size advantage but Homer is faster, Wyatt said.
Nikiski at Monroe Catholic, Saturday 1 p.m.
The Bulldogs will look to remain unbeaten in Greatland Conference play against Monroe. Nikiski is coming off a 30-8 win over Seward. Kaden Spurgeon led the Bulldogs with 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Stephen Hartley ran for 61 yards and one score. Spurgeon also racked up 108 yards and two touchdowns against Thunder Mountain in Week 3.
Spurgeon has the second-most rushing yards out of peninsula rushers with 465 on the season. He has seven rushing touchdowns. Hartley has 192 rushing yards through four games.
Colton Anderson threw for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. He is second behind Jones out of local quarterbacks with 360 total passing yards on the season.
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