SoHi travels to Kodiak for NLC test

Posted: Friday, September 19, 2008

After a dominating 67-0 win over Skyview on Friday night, Soldotna coach Galen Brantley Jr. turned his attention to Northern Lights Conference co-leader Kodiak.

He wasn't sure how his team was going to fare after the 12-hour ferry ride to The Rock.

"Most of our kids have never been on a ferry," he said following the game. "We've got one kid who's from Kodiak who's had a few ferry rides but we don't know what to expect with that. It's always a tough place to go and play over there."

Judging by the Stars history, they should be just fine.

Top-ranked and undefeated Soldotna, which has won 24 consecutive games and takes on Kodiak at 2 p.m. on Saturday, is 7-0 all-time against the third-ranked Bears, including a 70-14 regular-season thrashing last year and 29-20 and 47-27 victories in the past two small-schools state championship games, respectively.

But the last time the Stars (5-0 overall, 3-0 NLC) traveled south they barely emerged victorious, squeaking out a 14-13 win with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

That was win No. 2 of SoHi's torrid streak, coming two weeks after the Stars last loss, a 41-6 setback to Colony on Aug. 12, 2006.

Victory No. 24 over the Panthers was much easier, though, as Soldotna jumped out to a 34-0 lead after the first quarter and a 54-0 cushion at halftime. Kodiak, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season, 14-0 to defending large-schools runner-up Palmer.

Brantley was hoping his players could harness the energy gained from the Skyview win and transfer it to their matchup with the highly touted Bears in what should determine the NLC champion.

"We're going in with some confidence and some momentum and we're just really hoping we can carry that through next week," he said.

Homer at Kenai, 2 p.m., Saturday

Practice how you play.

Kardinals coach Jim Beeson is pleased his team has finally figured that out.

Following Kenai's 28-0 road win over Northern Lights Conference foe Houston last week, Beeson said he couldn't pinpoint what spurred his team to such a major victory.

Then it dawned on him.

"It was such a difference between last week and the previous five weeks in terms of how we played and everything," he said. "There's no one thing to put a finger on other than we have been playing like how we've been practicing. ... Hopefully we've got it figured out and we're getting better and we're going to continue to play well.

"We practiced well last week and we practiced well this week and hopefully that's an indication that we're going to play like we did last weekend."

And if they do, on their homecoming nonetheless, the Kardinals (4-2 overall, 2-1 NLC) will be playoff-bound for the first time since 2005.

A win by the Mariners (2-4 overall, 0-3 NLC), however, leaves them alive for a postseason berth should they top Skyview in Week 8 and receive a little help from Soldotna and Kodiak, who play Kenai and Houston, respectively.

"It's a playoff game for both of us because if they don't win they're out," Beeson said matter-of-factly. "They will be ready to play."

The Kardinals owned last week's contest from start to finish.

A change at quarterback, Dalton Chappell took over for Zach Rabung, who is now lining up at wide receiver, allows their offense to operate more two-dimensionally, as running back Billy Kiefer carried the ball 17 times for 111 yards, as opposed to 40 times as he did a week earlier in a 7-6 win over Skyview.

Chappell held his own, too, completing 7-of-15 passes, two to Rabung, for 81 yards with one interception.

"It gives us a better opportunity to throw the football and be successful because Dalton does throw the ball a little bit better," Beeson said. "Zach is a bigger, taller kid who can go up and catch the ball. I think it makes us better all the way around.

"Poor coaching that it took us this long to make the change," he added. "We were relying on Billy so much to run the football and we just can't do that as much."

Kenai's defense also did its part, limiting the Hawks to 73 yards of total offense and just three first downs, two coming on their opening drive.

"Physically, we just played harder," Beeson said. "We were much more physical than they were ... which is the first time we could say that all year long."

Ketchikan at Skyview, 2 p.m., Saturday

Last week's 67-0 loss to crosstown rival Soldotna is in the past.

The Panthers (0-6 overall, 0-4) are focused on the future, which coach Jerry Byrne hopes includes a pair of wins to conclude what so far has been a disappointing season.

"It was a pretty tough whipping we got last week but they bounced back (in practice). We're looking forward." Byrne said. "We've got two more games and we're going to try and put them in the winning column. We've had some close ones against some fairly good teams, but it's been disappointing."

But Byrne knows little about Ketchikan, a former NLC squad now playing independent ball.

The Panthers have studied film from last year's matchup, which they won handily, 53-0, in contributing to the Kings 0-7 season.

"I'm optimistic. I think we should win this one," Byrne said. "They're a fairly young team. They're just kind of getting their program off the ground. I don't think they've played more than three or four games this season."

Barrow at Nikiski, 6 p.m., today

Last year the Bulldogs lost to the Whalers, 27-15, on the blue turf bordering the Arctic Ocean.

This season's game, however, is a lot more meaningful with two extra playoff berths up for grabs.

Undefeated Barrow, sitting at 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the league, can clinch the top seed out of the Greatland Conference with a win.

A victory by Nikiski, on the heels of their surprising 62-22 setback to visiting Eielson last week, could force a three-way tie atop the standings should the Bulldogs beat Seward next week.

If the loss to the Ravens is any indication, though, Nikiski should have its hands full with the only conference team to knock off Eielson this season, which Barrow did with a 32-28 win in Week 3.

The Whalers, in their third varsity season, are guided by quarterback Albert Gerke, who leads Alaska in passing yardage (1,168) and touchdowns (18).

But the Bulldogs (3-3 overall, 3-1 GLC) have a lethal weapon of their own in running back Beau Calderwood, whose 1,222 yards and 18 touchdowns are both good enough for tops in the state.

Seward at Eielson, noon, Saturday

The Seahawks (0-6 overall, 0-4 GLC) are still searching for their first win of the season after suffering through a 54-6 loss to Homer on Saturday in a nonconference affair.

The Ravens, on the other hand, are looking to lock up at least second place in the Greatland Conference with a victory.

Last week, Eielson (4-2 overall, 4-1 GLC) traveled to Nikiski and jumped all over the Bulldogs from the get-go, leading 27-0 after 12 minutes before eventually winning, 62-22.

This is the Ravens final conference game as they head to West Valley next week, while the Seahawks host Nikiski.

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