After being defeated in the season’s first conference played in Barrow last week, the Voznesenka Cougars grabbed hold of the Valdez Buccaneers on Friday and refused to let go, claiming a 42-28 victory.
“The teams were well-matched. It was a lot better than Barrow,” said Voznesenka Head Coach Justin Zank.
One big difference was that, after struggling to scrape together enough players for an 11-man team, Zank had a little room to spare on Friday.
“We have some more guys and I dressed out 17 total,” he said.
The night’s first touchdown and two-point conversion went to Voznesenka. The Buccaneers immediately came back with their own touchdown. The first quarter score had Voznesenka ahead, 8-6.
The equal footing of the two teams was evident by the end of the first half with Voznesenka maintaining a lead, and the margin separating the two teams spreading wider in the third quarter.
Getting the fourth quarter off to a fast start, Voz halfback Mavrick Ivanov’s touchdown brought the score to 36-22 and the Buccaneers answered with one of their own, raising the score to 36-28.
With four minutes left in the game, the Cougars scored the game’s final touchdown, claiming a 42-28 victory.
Rushing 19 times for 93 yards, and completing 10 of 19 passes for 193 yards and three scores, quarterback Avraam Kalugin, “handled the ball extremely well,” said Zank. Dennis Martishev boosted the Cougar’s defense with 11.5 tackles, rushed 10 times for 56 yards.
Mavrick Ivanov had eight tackles, and carried 20 times for 70 yards and a score. Kosta Reutov rushed one time for three yards and led receivers with five catches for 81 yards and two scores. Martishev had three catches for 30 yards; Kiril Sanarov had a 37-yard touchdown catch; Ivanov had a five-yard catch.
Reutov recovered a fumble; Gavril Kalugin had one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The game’s intensity was evident by the Cougars’ eagerness and repeated false starts. The resulting penalties proved, in some ways, they were their own worst enemy, which is something Zank said he would be working on before the next conference game.
“We cannot have that happen again,” he said.
This season of football began with Voznesenka playing Homer on the Homer High football field, a field being a luxury the Cougars lack in their small village near the head of Kachemak Bay. Instead, the team has practiced on a 20-by-40-foot area. It was clear in Friday’s game against Valdez that the Cougars are quickly growing into the much larger, full-size 160-by-360-foot field.
“We’ve had the ability to practice at McNeil (Canyon Elementary School),” said Zank of the boost in their comfort level.
The Cougars’ next scheduled game was to be Saturday against Delta in Delta. However, it has been canceled due to that school’s inability to field a team this year, according to Zank.
Instead, the Cougars will play Seward in a homecoming game on the Homer High field Sept. 14. That gives some practice time before they take on the Seahawks.
“A couple of weeks of much needed practice,” said Zank, who remains optimistic about his goal to have the Cougars recognized as a competitive team.
“It’s going to be a long road, but I’d like to make it to the playoffs,” he said. “Tonight was the first step in that direction.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.