Sure, the Kenai Central High School football team entered Friday's Northern Lights Conference game at Skyview with a 3-1 record, coming off a lopsided victory against Kodiak.
And true, the Panthers went into the game with a 1-3 mark, coming off a lopsided loss to Soldotna.
But don't think for a minute that the Kardinals' 47-6 victory was easy.
In fact, the Panthers were the first team out of the gate Friday. Skyview drove 66 yards in 11 plays to score on its opening drive, capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Kaleb Shields to Nathan Schmidt, then halted Kenai's first drive after just five plays.
Skyview's Andrew Smith broke away for a 62-yard carry on the first play of Skyview's next drive, and a 3-yard run by Brandon Cleveland set the Panthers up with a second-and-goal from the one.
Kenai's defense held, though, stuffing a pair of Skyview runs for negative yards then coming up with a sack on fourth down.
Skyview's Nathan Schmidt scores a touchdown in the first quarter Friday against Kenai.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The defensive stand got the Kardinals fired up, and Kenai's offense responded with a touchdown on its next drive.
"We were pretty close to being down 13-0, realistically," said Kenai coach Jim Beeson. "That's a testament to our kids. We shut them down, then got back into the game on the offensive side of the ball."
Kenai quarterback Cole Chappell provided the two big plays on the drive, connecting with Cory Whiteley on a 54-yard pass play, setting up the Kardinals on the Skyview 28-yard line, and then scampering 22 yards on fourth-and-13 for the game-tying touchdown as time expired in the first quarter. Jose Araya connected on the extra point to give Kenai a 7-6 lead, the Kardinals never looked back.
The Kenai defense buckled down, and the Kenai offense added two more touchdowns on a 14-yard run by Chappell and a 20-yard pass from Chappell to Micah Lillard to take a 21-6 lead into the half.
Beeson called Lillard's catch a poetic justice after the wide receiver was unable to come up with a similar pass last week. Friday, it appeared that Chappell's pass would be knocked down by Skyview's Cleveland, who was in a perfect defensive position, but it was Lillard who ended up with the ball.
Kenai's defense played a big role in the Kardinals' second-quarter scoring, keeping the Panthers penned in and stopping them twice on fourth-and-short.
"We were just trying to read our keys better," said Kenai defensive lineman Geordan Main. "We were overconfident in the first half, and we realized that this team could play with us, and we needed to step it up."
The Kardinals grabbed the momentum for good in the third quarter, scoring on their first possession of the second half.
"Our horses took over, especially in the second half," Beeson said.
Dakota Craig was credited with a 51-yard run on the first play of the half though it would have been a 59-yard touchdown but for an illegal block at the Skyview 8-yard line.
After the penalty was marked off, the ball was spotted on the Skyview 18, and Craig rushed for nine yards before Chappell connected with Josh Bennett for an 11-yard touchdown.
Craig capped the next Kardinals drive with a 49-yard touchdown run, and Chappell closed out the third-quarter scoring with a 2-yard keeper to give Kenai a 40-6 lead.
Craig added one more touchdown for the Kardinals on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Beeson said the Kardinals just need to figure out how to start as fast as they finish Kenai also got off to slow start last week at Kodiak.
"We've just got to play four quarters of football," Beeson said.
As for the Panthers, they're still improving.
"We felt pretty good about our first-half effort," Salness said. "... We're working hard in practice, tackling better, and we really feel like Kenai is the best team in the state in the small schools."
Smith said the Panthers were playing more and more as a team, and still enjoying the game despite the score.
"It's disappointing not winning all our games, but we're still trying to make this a fun season," Smith said. "We're trying to make something out of it. Like tonight, it was still a fun game to play in. That's what it's about."
Kenai will look to keep rolling with a nonconference tilt at Seward at 2 p.m. Saturday, while Skyview will travel to Kodiak for a 2 p.m. NLC game Saturday.
Kardinals 47, Panthers 6
Kenai 7 14 19 7 47
Skyview 6 0 0 0 6
Sky Schmidt 21 pass from Shields (kick failed), 8:08
Ken C. Chappell 22 run (Araya kick), 0:00
Ken C. Chappell 14 run (Araya kick), 3:40
Ken Lillard 20 pass from C. Chappell (Araya kick), 0:55
Ken Bennett 11 pass from C. Chappell (kick failed), 10:53
Ken Craig 49 run (Araya kick), 6:56
Ken C. Chappell 2 run (pass failed), 1:19
Ken Craig 3 run (Araya kick), 6:29
First downs 14 12
Rushes-yards 48-427 40-84
Passing yards 113 85
Return yards 34 0
Passing 4-9-0 8-15-1
Punts-avg. 0-0.0 2-36.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 4-1
Penalties-yards 15-105 5-25
Rushing Kenai: Craig 21-207, Hansen 10-122, C. Chappell 10-80, T. Chappell 3-10, Rainey 1-7, Miles 3-1. Skyview: A. Smith 8-100, Bellinger 8-16, Lin. Lavea 5-6, Cleveland 6-2, Rowell 2-1, Williams 1-0, Carlon 1-(-10), Wehrli 6-(-14), Shields 3-(-17).
Passing Kenai: C. Chappell 4-9-0113. Skyview: Wehrli 5-6-037, Shields 3-7-148, Rowell 0-1-00, A. Smith 0-1-00.
Receiving Kenai: Bennett 2-39, Whiteley 1-54, Lillard 1-20. Skyview: Schmidt 5-53, Derkevorkian 2-18, Smith 1-14.
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