Soldotna, Kenai square off

Rivalry renewed

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2005

This time of year always seems to be about Red Sox-Yankees and Kenai-Soldotna.

The Kardinals will host the Stars Saturday at 2 p.m. in a game with major Northern Lights Conference title and playoff implications.

Also this weekend, Homer will try and increase its playoff chances when it hosts Skyview at 3 p.m.

In the Great Land Conference, Nikiski will try and put a lock on the conference’s No. 2 seed when it hosts rival Seward at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The back-and-forth Kenai and Soldotna rivalry currently has Soldotna with a 15-13 all-time lead. However, the Kardinals have won the last four meetings between the schools.

Aside from a 14-0 Kenai victory in 2003, each Kardinals win has come by a touchdown or less.

“We’d like to get in there, make a break and pull one out,” said Soldotna coach Sarge Truesdell, whose team is 2-1 in the NLC and 5-2 overall.

If the Stars are able to pull the game out and Homer is able to beat Skyview, it would jumble the playoff race because Homer, Kenai and Soldotna would be tied at 3-1 and head-to-head matchups would decide nothing, meaning playoff spots would come down to a coin toss.

“It doesn’t matter what the records are — playing Soldotna is motivating enough,” Beeson said. “We have to win to make sure we’re in the playoffs.

“If we beat Soldotna, they’re out regardless.”

The Kardinals (3-0 NLC, 5-2 overall) will match their stout defense against Soldotna’s juggernaut offense. The Stars have gained 2,688 yards on the ground this year while Kenai has allowed just 748 yards on the ground this year.

“It’s probably the biggest question mark of the year,” Truesdell said, when asked if his squad could run on Kenai. “Their personnel is pretty big and athletic.”

Soldotna’s offense is extremely deceptive, with a multitude of crafty, faked handoffs.

“We just have to be disciplined and do what we’re supposed to do every play — all 11 people,” Beeson said. “We can’t have somebody leaving their responsibility because of a fake.”

Soldotna also will have to find a way to stop Kenai’s offense, which has been on a roll lately.

“The reason we’ve been successful the last three or four weeks is our line is playing well,” Beeson said. “It’s as simple as that. All good football teams win at the line of scrimmage. I don’t care what level it is.”

Skyview at Homer, 3 p.m.

The Mariners (2-1 NLC, 4-3 overall) need to win and need Soldotna to lose to clinch a playoff spot.

Homer also would like to avenge a 14-13 loss to Skyview last season. Homer coach Kelly Blake said he has not had to remind his team about that game.

“The guys themselves have brought it up all week long,” Blake said. “They realize Skyview could knock us out like they did last year. To beat us would make their season.”

Blake said his team has learned from the 41-8 drubbing it took at the hands of Kenai last week. The Mariners also know that a win Saturday would put them on a path to a possible rematch with Kenai in the small-schools state championship game.

“The kids were trying so hard not to lose that they slowed down and made mistakes instead of just playing ball, like we have all year,” Blake said.

Blake said Skyview (0-3 NLC, 1-6 overall) is far better that its record indicates. He noted the Panthers have been competitive in every game until halftime.

“If you look at every game, we’ve always had more turnovers than the other team,” Skyview coach Phil Sheridan said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know how those games turned out.

“Without the turnovers, we could play with anybody.”

Seward at Nikiski, 1 p.m.

The Bulldogs will look to secure the GLC’s No. 2 playoff slot with a victory over the Seahawks.

Heading into the game, Houston and Nikiski are each tied in the GLC standings with 4-1 records while the Seahawks are at 3-2.

If Nikiski beats Seward, the Bulldogs make the playoffs unless Houston is able to travel to Eielson and pull off an upset of the undefeated Ravens Saturday.

If Houston wins and Nikiski wins, Eielson, Houston and Nikiski would be tied at 5-1. A coin toss would break that tie.

If Houston loses and Nikiski loses, Houston, Nikiski and Seward would be tied for the final playoff slot with 4-2 records. A coin toss would decide who makes the playoffs.

“We know what we need to do next week,” said Nikiski coach Ned Clooten after his team’s victory in Valdez last week.

Seward assistant coach Roger Steinbrecher said his team has been getting players back from injury, academic ineligibility and from summer jobs all year. The Seahawks are peaking and looking for a playoff berth, although two starters will not start Saturday due to injury.

Nikiski beat Houston 20-14 in Week 2, while the Hawks topped the Seahawks 33-30 in Week 4 in a game in which Seward missed five extra points.

“We feel we have to be at our best to knock them off playing at their place,” Steinbrecher said. “We’re capable of doing that, but we have to put it together.

“If we don’t play as a team and have a bunch of breakdowns, we’re in trouble.”

While Nikiski had to travel to Valdez last week, Seward’s game at Sitka was canceled when the Wolves forfeited. Steinbrecher said not having to travel to Sitka last weekend should give his team more energy this weekend.

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