Kenai's Bill Chimphalee evades Nikiski's Zech Hemphill to make a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday at KCHS.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai Central High School football team is headed for its fourth straight small-schools championship game.
"We're one step closer to being where we want to be," said Kenai head coach Jim Beeson after the Kardinals defeated Nikiski 55-6 at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai Saturday in the first round of the small-schools playoffs.
The Kardinals will meet Eielson, a 21-20 winner over Homer, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Anchorage Football Stadium in the First National Bowl for the Alaska School Activities Association small-schools state title.
"Nikiski did exactly what we knew they were going to do. You have to take your hat off to them they played their guts out. They did everything they had to do. ... We're a little bigger and a little more athletic, and that won out today," Beeson said.
The Bulldogs' game plan for the Kardinals involved using as much of the play clock as possible. Nikiski stayed in its huddle for as long as possible before jogging to the line of scrimmage for the snap, giving Kenai very little time to adjust to the formation.
While Nikiski's first drive covered just 25 yards, the Bulldogs ran 14 plays and ate 7 minutes, 17 seconds off the clock before turning the ball over on downs.
Nikiski's Justin Tumbaga tackles Kenai's Brandon Miles along the sideline in the third quarter Saturday. Tumbaga was flagged when he didn't let up on the tackle after crossing out of bounds.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Bulldogs defense held on fourth-and-1 on Kenai's first series of the game, but Nikiski couldn't move the ball on its next possession and the Kardinals showed some quick-strike capabilities to score before the end of the quarter.
After a holding call and an incomplete pass pushed Kenai back to its own 26, Kardinals quarterback Tyler Chappell connected with Austin McLeod for a 74-yard touchdown pass. McLeod hauled in the pass just over the midfield stripe and, with most of the Nikiski defenders keying on the Kenai running game, had just one Nikiski defensive back to run away from on his way to the end zone with one second left in the frame.
Kenai got rolling from there, scoring on both of its second-quarter possessions.
"We started passing and got that big play to Austin, the defensive backs loosened up and runs started happening," Kenai running back Brandon Miles said.
Isaia Faumui capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive Miles had a 46-yard reception on the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run, and Chappell scrambled for a 38-yard touchdown run after Kenai successfully defended a Nikiski fake punt and pass play.
"We needed to play mistake-free football, especially in the first half, and we didn't," said Nikiski head coach Ned Clooten. "We had couple of opportunities, but we didn't execute the way we needed to."
The Kardinals put the game out of reach with three third-quarter touchdowns. Miles broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and rambled 59 yards for the score to open the second half, then added a 12-yard scoring run after Kenai recovered a Nikiski fumble.
Bill Chimphalee scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 25-yard run late in the third quarter. Chimphalee added touchdown runs of 22 and 6 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs were able to spoil Kenai's shutout bid with a fourth-quarter touchdown. Zech Hemphill returned a Kenai kickoff 68 yards, with an extra five tacked on for a facemask on the tackle. Justin Tumbaga got the Bulldogs to the 10 with a 15-yard run, and Tyler Payment finished off the drive with his 10-yard run up the middle.
"Our main goal was to get out the attitude of this program. I think we met that goal," Tumbaga said after an emotional team huddle following the game. "Play after play, we put our hearts into it. We took it play by play. We tried our best."
For their part, the Kardinals were nearly stoic after the game with their focus squarely on a fourth straight state title.
"We're going to get pretty serious in practice this week," Miles said.
Kardinals 55, Bulldogs 6
Nikiski 0 0 0 6 6
Kenai 7 14 21 13 55
Ken McLeod 74 pass from Chappell (Kim kick), 0:01
Ken Faumui 9 run (Kim kick), 3:33
Ken Chappell 38 run (Kim kick), 1:32
Ken Miles 59 run (Kim kick), 10:53
Ken Miles 12 run (Kim kick), 7:14
Ken Chimphalee 25 run (Kim kick), 4:02
Ken Chimphalee 22 run (Kim kick), 8:54
Ken Chimphalee 6 run (kick failed), 6:04
Nik Payment 10 run (run failed), 5:18
First downs 7 12
Rushes-yards 44-99 49-354
Passing yards 46 134
Return yards 8 12
Passing 2-6-0 3-5-0
Punts-avg 5-32.0 1-33.0
Fumbles-lost 5-3 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-90 12-90
Rushing Nikiski: Tumbaga 21-55, Hemphill 17-44, Payment 1-10, Blatchford 1-2, C. Smith 4-(-12). Kenai: Miles 18-136, Chimphalee 18-132, Chappell 5-60, Faumui 4-18, Pierce 3-13, Oliver 1-(-5).
Passing Nikiski: C. Smith 2-5-046, Blatchford 0-1-00. Kenai: Chappell 3-5-0134.
Receiving Nikiski: Hemphill 1-25, Anderson 1-21. Kenai: McLeod 1-74, Miles 1-46, Moore 1-14.
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