Head Coach Josh Fraley and the Homer High School varsity football team knew Friday’s game against the Palmer Moose was going put the Mariners to the test.
“Even though we lost, everyone knew it was going to be a tough game and I’m really happy with the effort they gave in that game,” said Fraley.
“They played well together as a team. That, as a coach, makes you feel good if they can do that. … These guys took the challenge, didn’t let that be their identity, but came out, fought hard and played the entire game fighting hard.”
The game ended with the Moose shutting out the Mariners, 48-0.
The Mariners were just coming off an impressive 30-0 win against the Skyview Panthers on Sept. 7, putting them at 1-2 overall. Going into Saturday’s game in Homer, the Moose held at 3-1.
By halftime, the Moose had claimed a 13-0 lead, with the Mariner defense putting up a strong battle.
“Our defense played pretty tough,” said Fraley. “They held tough that first half. I was very, very proud of our defense.”
Unfortunately, Fraley’s hope that the offense would keep control of the ball and give the defense a break didn’t materialize. The Moose scored twice on defense and, exhausted from their effort, the Mariner defense began to slip in the second half of the game.
“They just got tired,” said Fraley. “There was a big momentum shift. They (Palmer) ended up capitalizing on our mistakes and getting farther ahead.”
Mariner Sheldon Hutt rushed 17 times for 42 yards, completing three of 15 passes for 50 yards. Joseph Cardoza caught two of those passes, gaining 47 yards.
“The kids played well and I was proud of them,” said Fraley of the beating the Mariners took from the Moose. “It helped to have that win (over Skyview). It showed what we’re doing every week, all week long was not for naught. … It was good to get that win and then in a loss to play well and hard.”
This weekend, the Mariners travel to Soldotna to take on the SoHi Stars. While the Mariners were battling the Moose, the Stars swept to a 63-0 victory over the Kodiak Bears, a team that beat Homer 26-8 in August.
Fraley was among the spectators at the SoHi-Kodiak game, getting a sneak preview of what the Mariners will face on Saturday.
“They’ve been running the same plays for the last 20 years and don’t do anything different. They just have a high
efficiency,” said Fraley.
Putting together a strategy for the upcoming game, Fraley said the Mariners would focus on their tackling.
“That’s going to be the thing for this game, to tackle well,” he said. “And offensively, we’re going to have to find out a way to run the football, to make things easier for the offensive linemen. Hopefully get some angle blocking in there, make it easier for these guys to open up some holes. We can’t throw if we can’t run it.”
The Mariner’s homecoming game will be played against Lathrop Sept. 28.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever played them,” said Fraley. “They’re a bigger school and I think that from a coaching standpoint, we’ll be working on making sure we execute plays.
At the halfway point of his first year as head coach, Fraley said the coaching staff is “starting to figure out where we can contribute, the things we need more of from each other.”
Of the team, he said, “The players are definitely coming together as a team. Instead of great individual performances, it’s more of a team.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.