There is only one high school football game on the central peninsula this weekend, but it’s a big one.
Archrivals Skyview at Soldotna meet today at 6 p.m. at Soldotna High School in a game with major playoff implications for both schools.
Skyview, which is just 1-14 against Soldotna all-time, must win to stay alive in the playoff hunt. The Panthers are currently 0-2 in the Northern Lights Conference, with games left against Soldotna (1-1 in the NLC) and Homer (2-0 in the NLC).
“The players know they control their own destiny,” Sheridan said. “They’ve been motivated by the fact that it’s all in their hands.
“Plus, I don’t have to say a whole lot to get them excited about playing Soldotna.”
The one time the Panthers topped the Stars was in 1998 in a game played at Skyview.
“Skyview has never beaten Soldotna at Soldotna,” Sheridan said. “That’s a motivator for us. The kids would like to try and do something that’s never been done before.”
Soldotna, which has conference games left against Skyview and Kenai (2-0 NLC), also needs the game to strengthen its playoff chances.
“I think we’re both eliminated if we lose,” Truesdell said. “Even if we win, we’d still need some help because we’d lose the tiebreaker to Homer.”
With rain possible and both coaches confident in their defense, the game could come down to turnovers.
Soldotna fumbled four times in heavy rain against Nikiski last week, but did not lose any of those fumbles. Skyview fumbled five times in the rain against Kenai last week, and lost three fumbles. The Panthers also threw four interceptions.
“We’ve talked about that a lot,” Sheridan said of fumbling. “We’ve practiced on it a lot. We’ve played with the old soapy ball.
“We went out in the rain today and didn’t fumble at all. The game probably won’t come down to long, 80-yard drives. The game will probably come down to mistakes.”
Truesdell has been very impressed with Skyview’s defense, which he called extremely athletic.
“We’ve got four sophomores on the field, so the execution is not like it’s been in the past when we’ve had eight seniors on offense,” Truesdell said. “I’ve seen flashes of brilliance, and we’ll really look good for a time, then it all comes apart.”
Sheridan also said his offense has not been on fire lately.
“We’ve played tough teams in Colony and Kenai and our offense hasn’t put points on the board,” Sheridan said. “We need to get our offense going.”
Truesdell said he expects a lot of rushing, but Sheridan said both teams will have to toss in the occasional pass to loosen up the defense.
Both teams also enter the game a little banged up, so injuries also could make a difference.
In other games this weekend, Homer hosts South Saturday at 2 p.m. while Kenai travels to Anchorage Football Stadium to take on Service at 3 p.m. Both those games are nonconference.
In Great Land Conference action, Seward hosts Delta Saturday and Nikiski travels to play Eielson at 1 p.m. Saturday. Eielson is 4-0 and Nikiski is 3-0 in the conference, so the winner has the inside track to the conference title.
The Bulldogs played nonconference foe Soldotna last week, so Nikiski coach Ned Clooten said his team has been preparing for the showdown with the Ravens for more than a week.
“We’re feeling good,” Nikiski quarterback Zech Hemphill said. “We’re feeling confident going into Eielson.”
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