Last week’s football games were brutal for southern peninsula teams. The SoHi Stars shut out the Homer Mariners 59-0, while the Nikiski Bulldogs cinched a 46-6 victory over the Voznesenka Cougars.
The Sept. 21 game between the Homer Mariners and the SoHi Stars, played in Soldotna, was a rematch of the 2012 medium-schools state championship game. The strength of the Stars, winner of that 2012 game, wasn’t a surprise to Homer Head Coach Josh Fraley.
“It was a lot of what I expected,” Homer Head Coach Josh Fraley said of the game against Soldotna. “They didn’t do anything that they haven’t been doing forever as far as offensively goes. Defensively, they were highly aggressive and well coached. And we knew that.”
To make matters worse, Homer was still reeling from injuries the Mariners suffered at the hands of the Palmer Moose the previous weekend.
“We really could have used some of those guys in key spots,” Fraley said of the holes left by the injured players.
Soldotna scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the game, but also found itself dealing with injuries. Late in the first quarter, SoHi running back Drew Gibbs suffered a leg injury and, although he managed to walk off the field, he never returned to the game. Senior Tyler Howell, attempting to cover a Homer receiver, also sustained a leg injury and was out for the remainder of the game.
“We played a real good second quarter,” said Fraley. “We knew it was going to be tough and it was, but the guys never hung their heads. When they give everything they have, you can’t ask for more than that.”
With a halftime score of 30-0, the Homer team attempted to gain momentum in the second half, but Soldotna held strong, putting JV players on the field during the fourth quarter.
Finally making it way into the end zone, and with only two minutes left in the game, Mariner Sheldon Hutt threw a pass to Joseph Cardoza for what appeared to be an eight-yard passing touchdown, but an offensive interference penalty called on Cardoza kept Homer off the score board.
“That was a bummer,” said Fraley. “I wasn’t very happy, but Joseph played a great game. He’s been playing running back his entire career, but with the injuries we’ve had, he stepped up and played wide receiver for the first time ever and made some great catches.”
In Saturday’s homecoming game, the Mariners will take on the Lathrop Malemutes.
“They lost to Palmer 42-19 last weekend, so it’s going to be an interesting game,” said Fraley. “It’s a team we’ve never played as long as I’ve been around.”
Fraley is hoping before Saturday’s game to get some of his injured players, varsity and junior varsity, back onto the field. Without a JV game scheduled for Saturday, he may need them to fill holes on the varsity team.
“We’re asking a lot of our younger players, making them play varsity when they’re really not ready for it, but we just haven’t had the bodies,” said Fraley.
For next weekend’s game against Houston at Houston, Fraley is hoping for a healthy team and “maybe have a little different outcome with our starters back. If we can get Houston under our belt, we’ll be in the playoffs.”
First, however, there’s Saturday’s homecoming game against Monroe.
“We’ll play this game and do the best we can,” said Fraley.
The Nikiski Bulldogs plowed into the Voznesenka Cougars in short order on Sept. 19, with touchdowns on the Bulldogs’ first three drives in the first eight minutes of the game.
At halftime, the Cougars still hadn’t found their way onto the board, with the Bulldogs leading 34-0.
Voznesenka tried to pick up the pace in the second half, but in the opening play Avraam Kalugin threw a backward pass that fell short. Nikiski took advantage of moment, picking up the live ball and running in the opposite direction for a fumble return touchdown.
“It was discipline,” said Voznesenka Head Coach Justin Zank of the Cougars’ weaknesses. “Not lining up correctly, not hearing the snap count, false starts, fumbles. Some of it is inexperience, some of it is guys nerved up and some of it is lack of concentration. Not enough practice for some of the guys.”
A touchdown late in the third quarter gave the Voznesenka Cougars six points when Dennis Martishev stripped the ball from Nikiski freshman Michael Odis and returned it 72 yards.
Wednesday, the Cougars were in Fairbanks, playing Monroe Catholic. On Oct. 4, their last game of the Great Land Conference season is against Eielson at Homer High School.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernewscom. Morris News Service’s Joey Klecka, a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion, contributed to this story.