Story last updated at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, September 26, 2002

Loss eliminates Mariners from NLC playoff contention

Homer drops hard-fought game

by Mark Kelsey
Staff Writer

photo: sports

  Photo by Mark Kelsey, Homer News
Homer running back Josh Fraley (44) gets ready to take a handoff from brother Jake Fraley as Adam Crum, far left, crosses in from behind in Saturdaypis 28-6 homecoming loss to Kenai.  
The visiting Kenai Kardinals seasoned a well-executed game plan with a hefty helping of speed Saturday and handed Homer a 28-6 homecoming loss that bounced the Mariners from Northern Lights Conference playoff contention.

The Kards got all the scoring they would need early, jumping out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead after their first two possessions on touchdown runs from star tailback Cory Janson, who rushed for a game-high 160 yards and three touchdowns.

"He's fast and he's hard to take down," Homer linebacker Adam Crum said of Janson. "Their speed was killer. We're bigger and stronger, but you can't take them down if you can't catch them."

Janson said keeping the hard-hitting Crum out of his path was key to the Kardinals success in the game.

"Our linemen did a great job today," Janson said. "They got linebackers like Crum blocked. To be able to block them was key."

So was Janson's speed.

The nimble senior was nearly dropped in the backfield on the first touchdown run but used his wheels and agility to get around a Mariner defender on a sweep left before turning up the sideline and dancing into the end zone. For his second TD, Janson went around the right side, breaking a tackle before outracing a host of defenders down the right sideline.

He added a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

In addition to the high stakes -- a playoff berth -- on the line for both teams, the game featured a matchup of the state's two top rushers, Janson and Homer's David Drake. Drake entered the game with a 163-yard edge, but Janson was 60 yards better than Drake on Saturday, setting up a final-game showdown for the state rushing title next week.

Senior Drake, who rushed for 100 yards himself and scored the Mariners lone touchdown in his final home appearance, said he was excited to be going head to head with Janson. He also credited his own linemen with contributing to his state-best rushing efforts this season.

"You can always count on them to give their all and get you down the field," he said.

Going into the game, the Kardinals knew they had one big task on their hands in stopping Homer tailback Drake. Often resorting to an eight-man defensive front, Kenai wore down the bigger, stronger Mariner linemen and limited Drake, who came into the game averaging 7.8 yards per carry, to a mortal 3.2 per carry while making him earn every one of the 100 total yards on 31 carries he compiled on the day.

"We felt like defensively we could stop the run. You really have to take your hats off to the linemen," said Kenai coach Jim Beeson, whose charges have yielded just 33 points in seven games this season. "Homer is very physical -- the most physical team we'll see all year. But our kids came out and played."

The game featured some serious popping in the trenches, and both sides expressed admiration for the other after the contest.

"Homer linemen are big and they're good. You gotta try as hard as you can to get past them," said Kardinal lineman Jason Browne, who singled out 5-foot, 11-inch Mariner guard/running back Josh Fraley for individual praise. "For his size, he was good. Very aggressive. I've never been blocked like that before."

Crum, who rushed for 25 yards on four carries on offense in his final home game, said the physical game took a toll on the Mariners, who lack the depth of Kenai.

"We got worn down," Crum said. "But it's fun to play against them because they always pop back."

Kenai lineman Casey Crowder returned the compliment.

"Their linebackers played very hard," he said. "It was fun going against them."

In the postgame huddle, Homer coach Terry Fraley noted that the physical play took a toll on the Kardinals, too.

"They gotta lick their wounds, and they know it," he told his players. "We got outnumbered. Any time they want to play 11 on 11, we'll whip their butts."

Homer's touchdown came at the 4:15 mark in the second quarter after a five-minute, 17-second, 51-yard drive that was highlighted by a 22-yard option pass from Drake to senior Steven Stead slanting in from the left.

Another senior, Danny Caffroy, chipped in to the homecoming effort with an interception deep in Homer territory that killed a Kenai drive late in the second quarter.

Fellow senior Marcus Kuhns, a nose guard and tackle, anchored a solid Mariner effort in the trenches, drawing double teams most of the afternoon but still registering some hard hits and tackles.

Although disappointed with the loss, Crum kept it in perspective on the last home game for 11 Mariner seniors.

"It's hard to leave (the program)," he said. "A lot of good things happened, though, so I'm happy with it."

Also suiting up for the last time at home were Mariners Jake Fraley, Jon Adams, Chase McKinney, Van Hawkins, Kyle McManus and Adam Dillon.

Homer, now 4-3, closes out its season Saturday with a game in Soldotna against Skyview. Coach Fraley said he anticipates another physical game.

"They're big, just like us," he said. "It'll be another tough game."

Quarterback Mike Tunseth's 10-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown rounded out the scoring for Kenai, which improved to 6-1 with the win.

Mark Kelsey is the editor and general manager of the Homer News. He can be reached at mkelsey@homernews.com.

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