It seems kind of odd to say this coming right off a homecoming game, but here goes anyway: Let the hype begin.
On its homecoming, Kenai Central dominated Homer 48-0 to set up a clash next Saturday with Soldotna that will determine the Northern Lights Conference Crown.
Soldotna, like Kenai, will enter the game 3-0 in the league thanks to a 59-14 mauling of the Kodiak Bears Saturday.
After a fumble on its first drive, Kenai quickly got down to the business of setting up the showdown.
Homer came out in a no-huddle, spread offense, but that did not throw off the Kardinals because Kenai had faced similar offenses earlier in the season.
With 10:42 left in the first quarter, Michael Scheffert tipped a pass from Homer quarterback Justin Adams into the arms of Brandon Miles, who returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.
The Kenai defense would keep up its domination of Homer the entire game. The Mariners ended up with 76 yards of rushing and 40 yards of passing.
Meanwhile, after that opening-drive fumble, the Kenai offense started rolling down the field.
"We just lined up and ran basic running plays," Beeson said. "We were getting 5 or 6 yards a rush, and we kept going right down the field."
Before the end of the half, Dakota Craig scored on two touchdown runs and Cole Chappell hooked up with Josh Bennett on another score as Kenai took a 28-0 lead at half.
Craig finished with 207 yards on 27 carries, while Miles rushed for 106 yards on six carries. Craig added another touchdown run in the second half, while Miles scored twice in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring.
While the Kardinals were busy blowing the Mariners out of the water, Soldotna was easily handling Kodiak. Thus, Beeson said the mood in the locker room after the game was not one of an outright homecoming celebration.
The Kenai players realize the important stuff is yet to come.
"You could tell they were happy they won, but you could also see they were already looking ahead to that game against Soldotna," Beeson said.
The winner of the Kenai-Soldotna game will be the Northern Lights Conference champions. The winner also will get to host a playoff game, while the loser will have to travel to Eielson to face Fairbanks.
Kardinals 48, Mariners 0
Homer 0 0 0 0 0
Kenai 21 7 7 13 48
Ken Miles 23 interception return (Araya kick), 10:42
Ken Craig 1 run (Araya kick), 5:19
Ken Bennett 7 pass from C. Chappell (Araya kick), 1:42
Ken Craig 8 run (Araya kick), 10:45
Ken Craig 1 run (Araya kick), 2:10
Ken Miles 11 run (kick failed), 7:35
Ken Miles 57 run (Araya kick), 3:00
First downs 6 21
Rushes-yards 30-76 60-398
Passing yards 40 24
Passing 3-18-3 2-3-0
Punts-avg 5-32.2 2-18
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 7-45 6-50
Rushing Homer: Hagen 2-1, Adams 6-(-15), Fraley 9-22, West 9-36, B. Smith 4-32. Kenai: C. Chappell 12-10, T. Chappell 3-(-4), Craig 27-207, Rainey 1-7, Hansen 11-72, Miles 6-106.
Passing Homer: Adams 3-16-2-40, Fraley 0-2-1-0. Kenai: C. Chappell 2-3-0-24.
Receiving Homer: J. Smith 1-14, Walsworth 1-15, Moffet 1-11. Kenai: Bennett 2-24.
Eielson 28, Skyview 7
The host Skyview Panthers watched an early lead turn into a loss Saturday afternoon, falling 28-7 to the Eielson Ravens.
Skyview senior Brandon Cleveland scored the first touchdown of the game, running in from 6 yards out with just 4 minutes elapsed in the first half. A Zack Rowell extra point made the score 7-0, a lead the Panthers would hold until the second quarter.
After that, the game belonged to Eielson, which put up 14 points in both the second and third quarters to claim its sixth victory of the season.
Despite the score, Skyview coach Ty Salness credited his team for hanging tough with the Ravens, who have lost only one game all season. He said he was particularly impressed with the improvement he's seen in his squad, which was coming off a tough 7-6 loss to Kodiak last week.
"We were pleased that we're stepping our game up," Salness said.
He said he was pleased with his team's running game, which racked up 152 rushing yards on the day against the Great Land Conference champions.
"In particular, Andrew Smith had a really good game, and Jacob Bellinger ran really hard for us," he said.
Skyview used several different players to keep its rushing game going strong. Smith carried the ball 17 times for 85 yards while Bellinger added 32 to go along with 21 for Cleveland, 10 for Zack Rowell and 12 for Ty Wehrli.
In the end, though, the 6-1 Ravens were simply too strong for Skyview.
Eielson plays Valdez next week, then hosts either Kenai or Soldotna in the first round of the small-schools playoffs. Salness said Eielson should give whoever it plays a good game.
"It's going to be an interesting battle in the playoffs," he said.
Skyview drops to 1-6 (0-3 NLC) with the loss. The Panthers close out the season next week at 2-5 Homer, a game Salness said he's looking forward to.
"We want to finish up real positive," he said.
Beyond that, Salness said he sees a lot of room for improvement next season for his squad.
"We have starters back at every position," Salness said.
And despite the fact that the Panthers have not put many wins on the board, Salness said he's far from disappointed with his first season in purple.
"It's been a fun season actually," he said.
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