It's unusual for a football team to use a loss as a motivational tool.
But that's exactly what Skyview is doing.
While the Panthers suffered a heartbreaking 17-12 setback at Kodiak last week that dropped them to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the Northern Lights Conference, they were still able to climb their way out of a 17-0 third-quarter hole and even had the ball at the Bears' 40-yard line when time expired.
Coach Jerry Byrne believes his team can build off that late-game momentum.
"I think our offense is starting to solidify. It started to show in the second half against Kodiak," he said. "We just kind of ran out of time. We put our game together and things started going good for us but we came up a little short."
The Panthers now face another formidable opponent in visiting Kenai at 6 p.m. today.
The Kardinals who sit at 3-1 overall and 1-1 in conference play are coming off a relatively easy 53-25 win at Nikiski, a game they led 33-6 with 3:22 to go in the first half.
Their lone loss, though, also came at the hands of Kodiak, who pulled out a come-from-behind 28-27 victory on The Rock.
Kenai coach Jim Beeson believes if Skyview had more time, the outcome of that game could have been different.
"We have to find a way to stop them. That's going to be the big deal with us," he said. "They played well with Kodiak. If they had had five or six more minutes, they probably would have won the football game."
Skyview may have more to worry about, however, as their defense will be facing the state's best running back in senior Bill Chimphalee, who's amassed a state-best 21 touchdowns (18 rushing) and 1,015 yards through the first four games.
"We're going to try to key on him. We've watched his film and looking at some tendencies, we've got our linebackers. We've been working on it all week," Byrne said. "We might have the combination. We'll just have to wait and see."
Beeson said it's no secret as to what the Kardinals' offensive approach will be.
"We're going to have to try and get Bill the ball as much as we possibly can. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out," he explained. "Whether he's running the football or catching the football or whatever, we've got to find ways to get him the ball."
With only three games remaining after tonight, all home affairs for Kenai, Beeson believes this is a must-win situation.
"It's the same for both teams," he said. "You aren't going to make the playoffs with two losses. Every game's a playoff game from now on."
Byrne is hoping Beeson is wrong, holding out hope that two losses is still enough to qualify.
"It's huge. If we don't win this one, it's pretty much over as far as any type of contention," he said. "And then, of course, we've got SoHi lurking in the future."
But so does Kenai.
The first step of the Stars' home stretch presents an interesting challenge.
After walking over North Pole, Palmer, Seward and Ketchikan during the first half of the season, SoHi now faces a new test when they host Homer.
It's not so much because the Mariners sit at 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference, their lone loss a 40-12 home setback to Kodiak. Rather, it has more to do with the extremely unique offense they run.
"The real challenge is going to be our defense trying to stop their single-wing offense," said Stars' coach Galen Brantley Jr. "It's one of those offenses you see one time a year. No one else in state runs the single wing. It's really kind of unconventional. You kind of have to prepare special for it."
Explaining the seldom-used formation, Brantley deemed it the "father of offenses," where the quarterback doesn't position himself under the center and in order for him to throw the ball, someone else needs to hand it to him first.
"It can be dangerous," he said. "If you're not playing disciplined and running around following fakes, it's going to be a long day."
Traveling to Homer to watch the Mariners' contest against Kodiak, Brantley knows exactly what they're capable of.
Add in that Homer hasn't played in nearly two weeks and that's a little cause for concern.
"We know their coaching staff does an excellent job getting their kids ready to play. They play with lot of enthusiasm and intensity, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Brantley said. "They've always found ways to slow us down and put together good defensive game plans.
"It's just a matter of time until they get it together," he added, "and I don't want to be the team they're playing when they finally take that next step."
Nikiski at Barrow, Saturday, 11 a.m.
If the Bulldogs can take anything away from their lopsided setback to Kenai last week, it's that their running game continued to shine and their aerial assault finally took flight.
Nikiski rushed for 119 yards, 65 coming from steady running back Beau Calderwood, who also caught a TD pass. But it was the Bulldogs' 217 yards through the air that raised some eyebrows.
Wiley Bennett replaced injured starter Brando Wik and completed 11-of-18 passes with four touchdowns (11, 18, 31, 60 yards), three to Evan Holloway, who hauled in eight passes for a game-high 195 yards.
How they'll react after a long trip to the Whalers' new home turf, however, is anybody's guess.
Sitting at 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the Greatland Conference, Nikiski is looking to duplicate some of that passing magic in hopes of attaining its second win of the season.
Eielson at Seward, Saturday, 2 p.m.
The Seahawks are looking build off their first win of the season, a 56-8 thumping of host Delta last week.
It won't be easy, though, as they now host the Ravens, who rest atop the Greatland Conference standings with a 3-1 overall mark and a 3-0 conference record.
Seward is currently 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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