Barrow trip gives Voz Cougars valuable experience

In their first official Great Land Conference 11-man football game last Saturday, the Voznesenka Cougars traveled across the state to take on the Barrow High School Whalers.

Returning home after a 6-46 loss, Voznesenka Head Coach Justin Zank said the game offered glimpses of the team’s strengths, as well as its weaknesses.

“Quarterback Avraam Kalugin gave everything he had for that game,” said Zank. “Linebacker Mavrick Ivanov was all over the field for our defense. He was form-tackling extremely well.” 

Zank took 14 Cougars to Barrow, using 13 in the game. Of those traveling, five were freshmen and seven were first-year players. Although many were new to the game, it was an opportunity for Zank to get a glimpse of their capabilities. One example is David Kuzmin.

“He played his heart out and will be a good ball player in the future,” said Zank.

With the goal this season of having the Cougars recognized as a competitive force, Zank said taking on the Whalers made it clear what’s needed to reach that goal.

“We were outmatched in every facet of the game. Barrow is a tough football team,” said Zank. In spite of quarterback play that was “pretty good,” Zank said, “Our ground game was non-existent and you cannot win football games without a successful ground game. Our defense was porous and we arm-tackled a lot.”

Still, the coach said the experience was good for the team and made clear the work they have ahead of them.

“I think it was an eye-opener for our young guys,” said Zank. “Hopefully they gained some valuable experience from this game.”

Part of the experience was the opportunity to see another area of the state that, as it turned out, is not so different from Voznesenka, a small community near the head of Kachemak Bay comprised mainly of Russian Old Believers.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better host team,” said Zank. “The community is similar to ours in that it is a small, tight-knit community.”

The difference that did stand out between these Northern and Southcentral Alaska communities was the temperature.

“It was definitely colder than Voz and I don’t think the guys were ready for cold weather football just yet,” said Zank.

This week, the Cougars stay closer to home with a game against Valdez on the Homer High School field at 5:30 p.m. Friday.  

That game will come after a week of an emphasis on “defense, defense, defense,” said Zank.

“We are young and inexperienced, but we will continue to work to improve every week,” he said. “Those guys were taken behind the woodshed this past Saturday, but don’t expect them to throw in the towel. We will be back at it against Valdez this Friday.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.