Kards, Stars, 'Dawgs look to stay perfect
Kenai Central shellacked a conference opponent on the road. Soldotna upended a large school in thrilling fashion. And Nikiski delivered a shutout when it had just four days to prepare.
It's Week 3 of the prep football season, and the trio of area schools will look to stay undefeated after posting impressive, second-week efforts.
"Enjoy this tonight, but it's all Wasilla, all the time, beginning tomorrow," Kenai Central coach John Marquez told his unit after it picked apart Skyview 48-7 last weekend, improving to 2-0.
The Kardinals moved to No. 2 in the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network poll for small and medium schools after their 41-point drubbing of the Panthers, who held the No. 2 slot entering the game.
Now comes Wasilla (0-2), which opened the season with a 32-20 loss to Skyview and fell 30-27 to West Valley last week.
The Warriors feature quarterback Ben Fielder, who had touchdown passes of 12, 41 and 65 yards in a 329-yard passing effort in the loss to West Valley.
Marquez watched tape of Wasilla and saw the Warriors run a shotgun-based offense most of Week 1, but a two tight-end set most of Week 2.
That means Kenai Central must be prepared for both.
"The key this week is to get after the quarterback and contain him - keep him in the pocket, make him throw the ball early and force him inside," Marquez said.
The Kards counter with a talented quarterback of their own, AJ Hull, who has scored just about every way possible through two games.
Hull has thrown for four touchdowns, rushed for four and scored two more on defensive plays - a 31-yard fumble return and a 92-yard interception return.
The mobile senior has excelled in a new spread offense implemented by first-year coach Marquez, and he figures to be integral to the Kards' success today.
It might not matter how Hull plays if the Kenai Central defense duplicates the effort it gave against Skyview.
The Panthers managed 17 yards on 22 carries and failed to score after the first quarter. The Kards intercepted Skyview quarterback Jordan Jones three times, allowing the senior to complete 11 of 35 passes - and only one in the second half.
Linebacker Daniel Carlson, who doubles as an offensive lineman, wreaked havoc all afternoon.
"He was phenomenal last week," Marquez said. "That kid has really stepped up his game."
Meanwhile, SoHi's defense is nothing to sneeze at, either - at least when the game is on the line.
The Stars (2-0) stopped a 2-point conversion attempt with 2:04 remaining in the fourth quarter to preserve a 29-28 victory at Palmer last week.
The Moose went for the win rather than the tie after pulling within a point on a Luke Heun 37-yard touchdown run, but Garrett Bosick tackled quarterback Jackson Buresh shy of the end zone. That kept SoHi No. 1 in the ASBN poll for small and medium schools.
"Our kids are pretty excited because they know we beat a quality team," SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. "But we also made a lot of mistakes that we need to fix."
Up next is a road contest at 7 p.m. today against Houston (0-1).
Houston runs an option attack on offense, which has the potential to create big plays.
Brantley Jr. said the Stars must key in on their defensive reads and make strong tackles.
"It's dangerous because you are one arm-tackle away from a 60-yard play every down," the coach said.
What the Stars will look to do on offense is no secret - run the ball. In the win over Palmer, SoHi passed just three times in 49 plays from scrimmage.
Jared Duncan carried the ball 16 times for 97 yards, while Auston Tennis ran it 15 times for 78 yards. Both scored one touchdown. Reid Schmelzenbach added eight carries for 52 yards.
"Our strategy going into the game is to run the ball and set up the play-action pass," Brantley Jr. said.
Nikiski (2-0), another run-heavy squad, looks to stay perfect as it travels to Thunder Mountain.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 4 in the state's small and medium schools poll and have yet to face much of a test. They defeated Monroe 26-7 in a sloppy season opener and followed that with a 48-0 win over Sitka last week on four days rest.
Nikiski visits Thunder Mountain (0-2) at 8 p.m. Saturday. Thunder Mountain has lost its two games by a combined score of 152-20, but Bulldogs coach Ted Riddall said he's not underestimating the opponent.
"They don't look like the team they were last year," Riddall said, adding he believes the Falcons have been hampered by injuries and ineligibility. "I think we're going to see a better team than the one they've been the past two weeks."
The Bulldogs have had little trouble moving the ball through two weeks.
Stephen Hartley, Kaden Spurgeon and Josh Brown pace Nikiski's rushing attack, which has accounted for 670 of the team's 892 yards.
Hartley has five rushing touchdowns and is averaging 16.2 yards per carry on 274 yards. Spurgeon has two touchdowns on the ground, averaging 8.1 per carry. Brown also has two scores.
Riddall has said all season the success of the running game hinges upon the offensive line, featuring four seniors.
"We're just focused on getting better each day in practice and getting all those details down," the coach said.
Skyview at Kodiak
The Panthers (1-1) look to rebound from a 48-7 loss to Kenai Central when they visit Kodiak (1-0).
Kodiak's lone game was a 34-18 win over unproven Houston, so it's difficult to know how good the Bears really are.
Skyview must establish a rushing attack to avoid becoming a one-dimensional, pass-heavy offense, which is what happened against Kenai Central.
Running back Jasen Suonvieri was limited to 28 yards on 16 carries against the Kards, after he rushed for 178 yards on 30 carries in a season-opening win against Wasilla.
Skyview quarterback Jordan Jones must make better decisions than he did a week ago, when he faced heavy pressure much of the day and tossed three interceptions, completing 11 of 35 passes.
Eielson at Seward
The Seahawks are searching for their first win of the year after consecutive losses to Valdez and Lathrop.
Eielson also is 0-2, suffering a 42-22 loss to Kenai Central and a 21-20 setback last week against Barrow.