There’s a lot to be said for a football team that never quits, in spite of the battle. Just ask Mariner Head Coach Josh Fraley, in the aftermath of the Sept. 28 49-0 loss to the Lathrop Malemutes. And ask Justin Zank, head coach of the Voznesenka Cougars, who just returned from a game against the Monroe Rams. The Rams won with a 54-0 score in a game played in Fairbanks Sept. 25.
“It was a rough one and we knew it was going to be,” Homer Head Coach Josh Fraley said of the Mariners’ Sept. 28 homecoming game against the Lathrop Malemutes.
The Malemutes made it into the Mariners’ end zone for a touchdown halfway through the first quarter. In short order, Homer reversed the action with Mariner running back Joseph Cardoza charging into the Lathrop’s end zone. However, a flag on the play kept Homer off the scoreboard.
“It seems like this year every time we’ve had a chance to score, there’s always a penalty,” said Fraley. “We haven’t scored in three games now. Three touchdowns have been called back.”
The Mariners defense kept the Malemutes from stacking up any more points in the first quarter, but by halftime it had climbed to a 35-0 difference.
The Mariners continued to play strong.
“They know some things are beyond their control and they keep working hard, they never gave up that whole game,” said Fraley. “It’s hard to do when you get down like that.”
By the fourth quarter, Lathrop had scored another touchdown, bringing the score to 42-0. One more touchdown in the final quarter brought the game to its 49-0 finish, a tough blow for the Mariners.
“It was homecoming and that was tough,” said Fraley. “They wanted to put on a good showing for the home fans, but when you’re playing a school with 1,300 kids in it, when they have 900 more kids than you do in your entire school, there’s only so much you can do.”
The defeat was felt hardest by the Mariners’ five seniors, who were honored prior to the game: Joseph Cardoza, Derek Johnson, Ian McCormick, Gabriel Selbig and David Jack Woo.
“You play for four years and it’s the last one you seem to remember,” said Fraley. “We really wanted to make it a good one and send them out on a good note. Fortunately for us, this is not the last game of the year.”
Friday night the Mariners play Houston.
“Looking at their scores against some of the same teams we’ve played, it’s really close in comparison,” said Fraley. “They’re built very similar. It’s going to be a good game.”
Gabriel Selbig and Ian Lowe, injured earlier in the season, were back in action in the game against Lathrop and will play in this week’s game in Houston.
“We’re hoping to work them back into the offense,” said Fraley. “But we’re being careful and making sure they’re healed up enough so they can take the hits their
A win in Houston will move the Mariners into the play-offs, facing the winner of this weekend’s game between Kenai and Soldotna.
Friday’s game between Homer and Houston can be heard at 3 p.m. on radio station KGTL AM 620.
“We never quit in the game, so our morale is not that battered,” said Zank of the team’s spirit. When it comes to physical beatings, however, Zank said, “Avraam Kalugin sustained a shoulder injury late in the game, a possible fractured clavicle.”
The action started early in the game, with Monroe making its way into the end zone and scoring a touchdown less than two minutes into the game. The first quarter ended with a score of 21-0. By halftime the scoreboard distance separating the two teams had spread to 30-0.
“We came out no-huddle throwing the ball in the third (quarter) and that is when we started turning the ball over,” said Zank.
Although the Cougars knew they would be facing a tough Ram offense, Zank wasn’t expecting the Voznesenka team to be shut-out.
“And I didn’t think that we would get beat the way we did,’ he said. “Our game plan was to come out and play smash-mouth football on offense. We were successful the first two drives going deep into their territory, but after two failed fourth-and-short attempts, I think the wind was let out of our sails.”
Several Voznesenka players were missing due to ineligibility and injuries and the Rams’ offense repeatedly out-powered the Cougars’ defensive line.
“I still would like to have seen us be more competitive,” said Zank. “I am proud that we continued to play tough through the fourth quarter. We refused the running clock in the third and played through the end of the game.”
The take-away lesson for the Cougars is discipline and attention to details.
“In order to get better and be successful, we must become more disciplined on both sides of the ball and be attentive to the small things,” said Zank. “Those small mistakes throughout the course of a game will win or lose that game for us.”
The Cougars have a chance to pull those small pieces together into a winning strategy Friday when they take on Eielson.
“We are going to continue working on those thing I have stressed throughout the year: stopping the run on defense and running the ball on offense,” said Zank. “We will work on a power running game leading up to Eielson. Take care of the ball on offense, run the clock and try to force turnovers on defense.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.