Week in and week out, Bill Chimphalee continues to impress most everyone who watches him.
On Saturday against visiting Homer, however, it wasn't his 130 yards and three touchdowns on his first four carries of the game that opened people's eyes.
Nor was it his fumble-causing hit and ensuing recovery that set up one of those scores.
It also was not the senior running back's touchdown reception to open the second half that stirred commotion.
Listed at 165 pounds, although Kenai's rosters traditionally underestimate height and weight, it was Chimphalee's three crushing blocks midway through the final quarter that impressed his coaches.
Oh, and all three just so happened to occur on the same play.
Already leading by 25 points, Kenai's Billy Kiefer capped the scoring with a 65-yard interception return for a TD which was aided completely by Chimphalee's first block down the left sideline, then his second key block that knocked a Mariner to the ground and then, routinely shifting from one man to the next, his final block that dropped another Mariner to the grass as the Kardinals finished off a hard-fought 49-17 homecoming victory over Homer.
"He blocked one guy here," said Kenai coach Jim Beeson, pointing to about the 30-yard line, "and kept running and he got two guys blocked in a row. That was neat to see because someone like him could easily have just taken the play off. I think he wanted Billy to score and we have a goal to score defensive scores, too. They take pride in that.
"That's what we were talking about on the sidelines is it was neat to see him actually put that much effort into blocking," he added. "They were good blocks. I mean, he whacked some people."
He did his fair share of that running the ball, too, carrying the ball 31 times for 318 yards and four TDs, increasing his state-best total to 1,637 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns on the season.
After the Kardinals who improved 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Northern Lights Conference recovered the opening kickoff, Chimphalee ran 19 yards to the right side and then took the next pitch to the left before cutting back up the middle, hurdling a man and walking into the end zone for a 6-0 lead only 50 seconds into the game.
On Homer's second play from scrimmage, Chimphalee's hit on Mariners' running back Matt Tyrrell jarred the ball loose and he scored on the Kardinals' next play, scampering 34 yards for a 14-0 advantage.
Roughly two minutes later, Chimphalee, again, dashed to pay dirt on Kenai's first play from scrimmage, this time cutting outside to the left and up the sideline. But just when it seemed like he was pushed out of bounds, Chimphalee maintained his balance, teetered along the line and stayed in, jetting 72 yards for his third score of the game.
"He's just all-around good. His tapes don't lie. And his running in person is pretty strong," said Homer coach Camron Wyatt. "You can't take anything away from that young man. He's respectful. Even on defense ... he has good form when he tackles. I think the young man is going to develop into a really good prospect for some folks.
"He just hustles," he added. "I think our kids, and other kids in our league, can learn a lot from just the hustle aspect. He's always in good form."
After Kenai quarterback Daniel Gustkey placed a perfectly thrown ball into the outstretched arms of Cody Booth for a 28-0 lead with 4:48 still to play in the first quarter, even Chimphalee couldn't stop the Mariners (3-3 overall, 1-3 NLC) from making a comeback.
A 22-yard field goal by Mark Walsworth trimmed the deficit to 23 points and after both teams traded fumbles on back-to-back plays late in the second quarter, Billy Edge found a falling Dean DeVaney 27 yards downfield in the end zone, making it 28-10 at the half.
"I don't know if we got up 28-0 and thought the game was over or we were real flat and it was hard to get back going," Beeson explained. "We just didn't make plays. Some of that's when you get up 28-0, it's hard to stay focused. To their credit, they played hard the whole game and they made it a football game. When it was 28-0, they could have quit, but they kept playing hard and made it a football game."
Gustkey and Chimphalee quickly put an end to that.
The two connected for a 25-yard score that capped a four-play, 50-yard drive to begin the second half and put the game out of reach.
"I thought that really set the tone for the second half," said Gustkey, who was 3-for-5 for 71 yards. "They scored again after that but I think that really set the tone that we were going to win this game and that it was going to happen how we wanted it to happen."
Homer cut it to 35-17 with 5:22 to play in the third when Gordon Parker, who rushed for 75 yards on 16 carries and also completed 9-of-19 passes for 146 yards, scored on a 1-yard plunge, but that was as close as the Mariners would get.
"It was like two games. We won the first one 28-0 and the second one was 21-17," Beeson said. "When you win 49-17 and you're trying to find things, and you're not happy with the way you played, I guess that's a good thing."
Chimphalee later added a 5-yard TD jaunt and then helped set up Kiefer's return in sealing the much-needed victory.
"We started pretty hot. Bill was ready to go. He ran all over them," Gustkey said of their fast start. "We expected him to and then we just had a couple miscues, a couple missed assignments. But we worked through it, came back and ended up getting some more points on the board in the second half. We were pretty happy with the way we fought through the adversity."
So was Beeson, although both see room for improvement with the East High jayvee team coming to town next weekend and Soldotna looming the week after.
"We've got to focus on East jayvee first and foremost," Gustkey said. "Soldotna's always going to be in the back of our mind the way they're just killing people.
"We know it's going to take a pretty good game to be able to beat them and we're just looking forward getting better and hopefully being able to play with them."
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
KARDINALS 49, MARINERS 17
Homer 3 7 7 0 17
Kenai 28 0 7 14 49
Ken Chimphalee 7 run (kick failed), 11:10
Ken Chimphalee 34 run (Chimphalee from Gustkey), 10:22
Ken Chimphalee 72 run (Gustkey kick), 8:15
Ken Booth 43 pass from Gustkey (Gustkey kick), 4:48
Hom Walsworth 22 field goal, 1:11
Hom DeVaney 27 pass from Edge (Walsworth kick), 30.9
Ken Chimphalee 25 pass from Gustkey (Gustkey kick), 9:35
Hom Parker 1 run (Walsworth kick), 5:22
Ken Chimphalee 5 run (Gustkey kick), 8:37
Ken Kiefer 65 INT return (Gustkey kick), 5:28
First downs 15 18
Rushes-yards 43-160 47-345
Passing yards 189 71
Return yards 135 144
Passing 14-22-2 3-5-0
Punts-avg 2-30.5 3-44.3
Fumbles-lost 4-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 8-60 5-35
Rushing Homer: Parker 16-75, Sutherland 1-10, Tyrrell 7-6, Craig 11-33, Edge 6-13, Crump 2-23. Kenai: Rabung 1-15, Gustkey 4-(-8), Booth 8-13, Kiefer 3-7, Chimphalee 31-318.
Passing Homer: Parker 9-19-2-146, Edge 2-5-0-43, Sutherland 0-1-0-0. Kenai: Gustkey 3-5-0-71.
Receiving Homer: Frink 5-88, Bouman 2-20, DeVaney 2-37, Sutherland 2-45. Kenai: Booth 1-43, Chimphalee 2-28.
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