For 15 guys who traveled 800 miles to lose a football game without even scoring, they were in good spirits. They weren't ecstatic, they weren't stomping their feet or waving their hands. But they had come a long way to lose what was, for them, a very long game, and they weren't bitter.
You might even say they were optimistic.
Well, you might say that about the coaches. The players mostly looked tired, as they surely were. The Ketchikan Kings played their fourth game ever Saturday, facing off against the Soldotna Stars at Soldotna in a Northern Lights Conference tilt. They lost 61-0. Afterward, they sat on the field and licked their wounds.
None of the 15 players, many of them freshmen and sophomores, had any comment. The coaches, however, saw this game the way they have looked at the others.
"It was a long game," Ketchikan coach Steve Fulk said. Asked to describe the season, he shrugged and said it's been "like this."
Then he paused and thought for a moment. He changed his tone and said, "We're taking our lumps, trying to learn from them. Hopefully we'll do better next year."
His coaching colleague Wade Schull echoed his optimism.
"Every game is a learning experience," he said.
Head coach Rick Balestrini is satisfied with his team.
"They kept their heads up," he said, taking a break from tending to sore players. "I was very happy with our performance."
Balestrini had especially kind words for two of his players, sophomore Chris Eide, a fullback who he said "played a whale of a game," and captain Geoff Nordlund, one of the four seniors on the team.
Nordlund provided the moment of greatest excitement for the Kings and their small entourage of fans. He ran 85 yards to the end zone, generating loud noise among the Ketchikan supporters anxious to see their team score. It was short-lived, however. The referee penalized the Kings for clipping and the ball returned to the 15-yard line. Nothing gained, distance lost; that was all that came of Nordlund's sprint across the field.
Perhaps the best praise the team received came from their opponents, who complimented the Kings before discussing their own performance.
"Their kids played hard," said Soldotna coach Rob Dimick, who ground game produced seven touchdowns Saturday. "They're going to be for real some day."
His players shared his appreciation for the Kings.
"They played a good, hard game," senior Ryan Weed said.
"They played tough," said Kyle Karsten, who had a touchdown run in the fourth quarter. "They don't see enough people."
Other team members called the Kings good sports; the game was unanimously a "good win" a "strong win."
Soldotna players are now looking forward to their homecoming game against Kenai on Saturday. Senior Ryan Verney, who had a 77-yard touchdown return, said nothing of his performance but only commented on the need to prepare for the next game.
"It was a good win, but now we have to get prepared for Kenai," he said.
The Stars will host Kenai at 2 p.m. Saturday, while Ketchikan will play Skyview Friday at 5:30 p.m.
SOLDOTNA 61, KETCHIKAN 0
Ketchikan 0 0 0 0 --0
Soldotna 21 20 7 13 --61
Sol -- Simpson 46 run (kick failed)
Sol -- Simpson 45 run (Rose run)
Sol -- Kelley 10 run (Carlson kick)
Sol -- Morris 4 run (kick failed)
Sol -- Foster 74 interception return (Rose run)
Sol -- Kelley 40 run (kick failed)
Sol -- Verney 77 kickoff return (Williams kick)
Sol --Karsten 5 run (Williams kick)
Sol -- Morris 19 run (kick failed)
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