Using the same game plan that helped them roll through the regular season, the Kenai Kardinals rolled over the Eielson Ravens 46-0 Saturday to claim a second straight Alaska small-schools state championship at Anchorage Football Stadium.
Junior running back Dakota Craig carried the ball 29 times for 176 yards and four touchdowns, and the Kenai defense turned in another dominant performance against the Great Land Conference champion Ravens.
Things got bad for Eielson in a hurry. After quarterback Evan Skinner completed a 25-yard screen pass to Chad Odom on the game's first play, Kenai shut down the line of scrimmage and left Eielson's offense with no place to hide. Kenai forced Eielson into a punt on the first drive, and from that point on it was all Kardinals.
Senior quarterback Cole Chappell got the scoring started with 4:35 left in the first quarter when he plunged 4 yards up the middle for the first of his two touchdowns on the day.
Less than four minutes later, Craig took the handoff from Chappell and ran 13 yards through the heart of the Raven defense to give Kenai a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
Kenai was expected to run the ball frequently Saturday, and they didn't disappoint. Chappell finished the first half with 87 yards on 11 carries, while Craig had 61 yards on 13 carries.
After the game, Craig credited the big, aggressive Kenai offensive line with blowing Eielson's defenders off the line of scrimmage.
"The line was really doing a good job today," Craig said.
Eielson coach David DeVaughn said the difference was at the point of attack.
"Their O-line beat us, their D-line beat us," DeVaughn said. "They're just solid on both sides of the ball and they're well-coached."
Eielson's multifaceted offense, which racked up 21 points last week in a semifinals victory over Soldotna, was stymied by a tenacious Kardinal defense that constantly blitzed and confused the Eielson ballcarriers.
Eielson's Chad Odom, left, has a pass go off his fingertips as Kenai's Brandon Miles closes in for a tackle during the first half of the prep small school state championship game Saturday, Oct. 11, 2003, in Anchorage, Alaska.
AP Photo/Michael Dinneen
"I don't think we were prepared for that kind of intensity," said Eielson junior offensive lineman Jamie Hurlburt.
Craig and Chappell each added second-quarter touchdown runs to Kenai's score, putting Eielson in a 26-0 hole it could never recover from.
"When you're down 26-0 at halftime, it's kind of tough," Hurlburt said.
After the win, Kenai head coach Jim Beeson had nothing but praise for his entire Kenai squad.
"We have quality kids and quality people working with them," Beeson said. "It worked out pretty well."
The Kardinals now have a chance to become the first three-time small-schools champion in history. However, Beeson said his team isn't in danger of getting too full of itself in pursuit of next year's goals.
"I said to Dakota when there was about 30 seconds left, 'Your challenge now is to be the first to win three in a row.' He said, 'It's not over yet,'" Beeson joked.
Craig said he's happy to have won a second straight title at the small-schools level. As for how the Kardinals would fare in the large-schools division, nobody on the Kenai sideline was prepared to say the 9-1 Kards are the best team in the state, period.
But Craig said he wouldn't mind strapping the pads on against either of the large-schools finalists, East and Juneau.
"They're both pretty good teams," Craig said. "It'd be a pretty good game."
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