Kenai's Josh Werba and Bill Chimphalee tackle Kodiak's Mitchell Pruitt in the first quarter of Saturday's home game.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Kodiak used a stingy defense and a shifty quarterback to end Kenai Central’s 28-game winning streak against small-schools opponents Saturday afternoon in Kenai. Kenai, which fell to 1-1 in the Northern Lights Conference and 3-2 overall, also had a string of 13 consecutive conference wins broken by the Bears.
“We just had to step it up defensively and bend but don’t break,” Kodiak head coach Todd Cook said following the game.
Quarterback Stuart McFarland ran for 73 yards and gained another 130 through the air to lead Kodiak’s offense, which outgained Kenai 334-239.
“Anywhere else he’d be a fullback or a tailback,” Cook said of the 6-foot, 204-pound quarterback. “He just happens to throw good, too.”
Kenai return man Jeremy Narlock fumbled the day’s first punt after Kodiak was forced to kick after its opening series. Kenai’s defense held, however, giving Kenai the ball on its own 11 to start the game.
The state’s highest-scoring offense coming into the game, Kenai sputtered on its opening drive Saturday a theme that would persist throughout the afternoon and was forced to punt.
Kardinals quarterback Dusty Ward hands off to Bill Chimphalee late in the second quarter of Saturday's home game against the Kodiak Bears.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
“We just couldn’t get it done,” Kenai head coach Jim Beeson said after the game.
Cook said he couldn’t be more proud of his team, which had never beaten Kenai and has struggled to gain respect since beginning play in 2002.
“To beat these guys is just unbelievable,” Cook said.
Kodiak wasted little time getting on the board on its next possession, using a couple big runs from McFarland to set up a 3-yard touchdown plunge by Mitchell Pruitt to take a 6-0 lead.
McFarland said Kodiak’s history as a small-schools also-ran has given the Bears a little extra motivation this season.
“We have a lot of not anger but a lot of built up intensity when we come into other people’s houses,” McFarland said.
Kenai twice drove deep into Kodiak territory in the first half, but were stopped once by the stingy Bears’ run defense and once by a goal-line interception by Clyde Valdez of an errant Dusty Ward pass attempt.
Kodiak committed a number of costly penalties, twice getting flagged for holding calls on plays that would have resulted in scores.
“We’ll do a lot of running for that this week,” McFarland said.
Kenai didn’t do itself any favors, either, turning the ball over four times in the first half, twice on punt returns.
Chimphalee was almost able to get loose late in the second quarter after picking off McFarland deep in Kenai territory. But the normally sure-footed runner was tripped up on his return attempt by the last Kodiak player in a position to stop him.
The quarter ended with Kodiak clinging to a 6-0 lead after a decidedly ugly first half that featured a combined five turnovers and 90 yards in penalties.
Kenai threatened Kodiak’s lead twice early in the third quarter, twice getting inside the 20-yard line before being stopped. It was after the second of these drives that the Bears blew the game open.
On Kodiak’s first play after being pinned deep by a Chimphalee punt, running back Anthony Francisco broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage and turned a short run into a 96-yard touchdown run.
Chimphalee was leveled on the play, and stayed on the turf for a couple minutes before walking gingerly off the field. That would be it for the Kenai star, who would not return.
The state’s third-leading rusher coming into the game, Chimphalee was held to just 71 rushing yards on 19 carries. Kenai was led by Cody Booth, who ran for 91 yards on 13 carries.
“Our defense was amazing,” McFarland said.
Kodiak wide receiver Curtis Catt put the finishing touches on the Bears’ shutout early in the fourth quarter. Catt took McFarland’s pass over the middle and juked three Kenai defenders on his way to a 65-yard touchdown.
The Kardinals should have ended the shutout bid later in the quarter. Helped by two big Kodiak penalties, the Kardinals drove down to within a foot of the Kodiak end zone. But Booth fumbled the ball into the end zone, resulting in a Kodiak touchback and ending any hope of a Kenai comeback.
Kodiak faces Homer next week in a game of two teams with one NLC loss each. Cook said he knows his team can’t afford a letdown after Saturday’s big win.
“You beat a team like Kenai and now you’re one of the top dogs,” Cook said. “We’ve got some pressure on us and we’ve got to make sure everything is in order.”
As for the defending champions, Beeson said it’s pretty clear what Kenai has to do from here on out in order to make it back to the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to win the rest of our games,” Beeson said.
Kenai faces Skyview next week with both teams facing elimination from the playoff race, and Beeson said his team will spend the upcoming week trying to regain the form that has led to four consecutive state titles.
“We’ve just got to be honest with each one of them, and ask them, ‘Are we going to be what we think we are or are we just going to fold?’” Beeson said.
Bears 19, Kardinals 0
Kodiak 6 0 6 7 19
Kenai 0 0 0 0 0
Kod Pruitt 3 run (try failed), 6:46
Kod Francisco 96 run (try failed), 4:39
Kod Catt 65 pass from McFarland (Lightle kick), 10:21
First downs 8 17
Rushes-yards 26-202 53-172
Passing yards 132 67
Return yards 30 63
Passing 9-25-1 7-16-1
Punts-avg 10-32.4 8-29.1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 5-4
Penalties-yards 15-120 7-40
Rushing Kenai: Booth 13-91, Chimphalee 19-71, Ward 15-14, Narlock 4-5, Gustkey 2-(-9). Kodiak: Francisco 8-101, McFarland 13-73, Dittman 3-24, Pruitt 1-6, Schwantes 1-(-2).
Passing Kenai: Ward 3-9-1-34, Gustkey 4-7-0-33. Kodiak: McFarland 10-26-1-132. (comp, att, int, yards).
Receiving Kenai: Chimphalee 2-23, Graham 2-17, Pierce 1-12, Werba 1-11, Smith 1-4. Kodiak: Catt 3-72, Francisco 2-10, Pruitt 2-7, Valdez 1-33, Merick 1-6, Wietfeld 1-4.
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