By McKibben Jackinsky
After a 1 a.m. departure Saturday morning, followed by a nine-hour ferry ride to Kodiak and a welcome to Alaska’s emerald island that consisted of chilly sheets of sideways-moving rain, the Homer Mariner football team took on the Kodiak Bears on Saturday.
The Bears managed a 22-20 win. That placed Kodiak 1-0 in Northern Lights Conference play, and Homer at 0-1 in the league and 0-2 overall.
“It was a close game, a hard-fought game,” said Mariner Head Coach Josh Fraley.
The score also reflected a bit of a change from the Mariner’s 41-16 loss to Eielson in the first game of the season, and a 26-8 loss to the Bears a year ago.
“We were definitely able to run the ball a bit better,” said Fraley. “The defense again was great and kept us in the game, and we got the football back when we needed it. It was just a tough game.”
Kodiak scored the first touchdown Saturday, with Homer’s Josh Fisk putting the Mariners on the board two minutes later, ending the quarter with a score of 6-6.
“He had a 74-yard run,” said Fraley.
In the second quarter, the Bears scored a second touchdown, plus a two-point conversion. Then, with only 34 seconds remaining in the first half of the game, Connor Seay scored a touchdown on a 34-yard pass from Sheldon Hutt. A two-point conversion by Hutt again put the Bears and Mariners eye to eye with a score of 14-14.
“The guys were riding high coming into half-time,” said Fraley of the mood among the Mariner team.
Coming back onto the field for the last half of the game, a touchdown by Fisk gave the Mariners a 20-14 lead, with Homer then fumbling on the five-yard line and failing to pick up a crucial two points.
In the final quarter, Kodiak made a three-yard touchdown run and scored the two-point conversion for a final game sore of 22-20.
“It’s one of those things. You’ve got to take care of the football,” said Fraley. “It’s tough when it’s wet like that, but it’s about who makes the least amount of mistakes.”
For the second game of the season, Fraley said the team is “beginning to gel.”
Standing out for Homer’s defense was senior Patrick Rainwater.
“He played a great game,” said Fraley, also acknowledging the contributions of senior Ben Knisley. “He had a great game defensively.”
Fraley also credited Fisk and James Kraszeski, as well as senior quarterback Sheldon Hutt’s “good job managing the guys and making some good decisions.”
Still short some players, the Mariners relied on freshmen as they did during the at-home game against Eielson.
“Most of them played pretty well,” said Fraley. “They made some big plays and are starting to learn.”
While the Mariners struggled to get the offense on the field in the Eielson game, they definitely showed progress playing Kodiak.
“We were able to get momentum, get a surge going, were able to run the ball which is something we’ve not been able to do the last couple of years,’ said Fraley. “When that’s happening and everybody is moving together, that’s what we’re looking for.”
He also saw improvement in the team’s tackling ability and, with a trip to Barrow this weekend, Fraley said he was thankful the Mariners were able to return home without injuries.
This week, Fraley said he and the team were focusing on improving their tackling even more, making sure their snaps were good and their blocking more effective.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Fraley. “We’ve just got to take care of the football better.”
Tuesday, the Homer’s C team played Kenai in Homer. Today the JV team plays Nikiski in Nikiski.
Saturday the Mariners play the Barrow Whalers at 1 p.m. in Barrow.
“It’s a busy football week,” said Fraley. “That’s what they need, to get out there and play.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
First downs: 11, 11
Rushes-yards: 40-184, 57-242
Passing yards: 70, 0
Passes: 3-6-0, 0-0-0
Punts: 1, 1
Fumbles-lost: 4-3, 1-1
Penalties-yards: 7-55, 6-60
Rushing-Homer: Fisk 17-124, Hutt 19-39, Seay 3-19, Lueth 1-2
Rushing-Kodiak: Javier 21-82, Galindez 16-87, Kionisala 14-66, Small 5-8, Miranda 1-(-1)
Passing-Homer: Hutt 3-6-0 — 70
Receiving-Homer: Fisk 1-23, Lowe 1-13, Seay 1-34