The Voznesenka Cougars came out fighting in their first game of the season Saturday, but fell to Monroe Catholic High School from Fairbanks.
The Buccaneers crushed the Cougars 26-0 at the field at Homer High School. Head Coach Justin Zank said that while the team always prides itself on being tough — having fewer players that have to work for longer each game — the boys surprised him a bit with just how hard they worked Saturday.
“We were in the game the entire time, and much like years past, you know, we are our own worst enemy at times,” Zank said.
Still, the Cougars defense only gave up 10 points throughout the game, he said.
“We’ve just got to fix up all those mistakes, minimize the penalties,” Zank said. “… We’ve had guys in and out now for weeks, so we’ve only had a few practices with the same guys.”
This was Voznesenka’s first game of the season, while it’s the third or second game for many other teams. A small-schools division team, the Cougars start in the fall, rather than summer, to accommodate the fishing season. Many of the players fish with their families in the Russian Old Believer community. Their first week is usually a bye, as it was this year, and the team had to forfeit its first scheduled game against Houston.
“It’s been a really atypical start to the season,” Zank said.
This year has started off with two players out with a shoulder injury and a broken arm, two seniors who quit, one player who went on family vacation out of state and a larger than normal number of students who participated in the late fishing season, all of which resulted in not enough eligible players.
“That’s kind of what killed that first game of ours,” Zank said.
Since the team gets a later start than most, Zank said he and assistant coaches usually end up preaching the fundamentals.
“There’s a lot of stuff I want to work with the guys,” he said.
For the rest of this season, Zank said he wants to continue working defense and stressing good tackling. He also wants to get the players to “eek out some yards” on the field when it comes to running the ball.
That’s not so say the Cougars don’t have their strengths, though. As Zank pointed out, offensive lineman and linebacker David Sanarov, a senior, had 23 tackles in this first game against Monroe.
“He’s an animal,” Zank said.
Contrary to what he’s been hearing, Zank said the Cougars are not forfeiting the rest of their season.
“We won’t ever quit, and we’ll hit hard till that last whistle,” he said.