The Homer football team will make its first appearance in the Division III playoffs since 2017 when the Mariners travel to face Nikiski in the semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Mariners (5-3 overall) are the No. 2 team out of the Mid Alaska Conference, while the Bulldogs are the Denali Conference champion. In Week 7, Homer traveled to Nikiski and pulled out a 46-36 victory.
Friday, Homer completed the regular season by losing 21-20 at Chugiak, which is No. 2 from the Northern Lights Conference in the Division II playoffs.
Homer head coach Justin Zank, who will lead the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time, said the Mustangs provided an ideal test headed to the playoffs.
“Chugiak is a tough team, a Division II playoff team,” Zank said. “I thought we fought hard. I’m proud of the guys for not tucking tail and staying in there.
“The guys showing resiliency and not backing down is a good note going into the playoffs.”
Playing on senior night and homecoming, the Mustangs jumped to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, quarterback Carter Tennison cut it to 14-8 with a 7-yard run.
The Mariners then tied it up at 14 in the third quarter on a 3-yard run from Tennison, but Chugiak answered with a 65-yard run for a 21-14 lead. Tennison got a 25-yard scoring run on the board, but the two-point conversion failed.
Tennison rushed 21 times for 101 yards and also was 10 of 20 passing for 197 yards and an interception. He also had eight tackles and a forced fumble on defense.
“Homer does have more than one dude on their team,” Zank said. “We don’t want to overly rely on one guy because if that guy goes down we’ll be in trouble.
“Early in the season, without Carter, we were 1-1.”
Zank said Russell Nyvall is a good change-of-pace back, while Jake Tappan also runs well.
Chris Martishev plays from a number of positions and had two catches for 53 yards against Chugiak. Markary Reutov had two catches for 46 yards, Luke Hanson had three catches for 41 yards, Morgen Techie had a catch for 30 yards and Jonah Martin had a catch for 27 yards. Martin was lost with an injury, but Zank also likes CJ Burns catching passes.
Zank said the Bulldogs will be a tough out due to the discipline head coach Matt Trammell has brought to the team. Trammell is a graduate of Soldotna and played for head coach Galen Brantley Jr.
Trammell has installed the SoHi offense, with all players coming from the backfield acting as if they are carrying the ball, and all the blockers driving to the whistle.
“In the first game, they were faster off the offensive line and had more drive off the offensive line,” Zank said. “They were the more physical team, for sure.”
The Mariners were able to win because Nikiski had trouble stopping Tennison and the spread offense, but Zank said he’s sure Trammell will come up with a different plan on defense.
“That opening drive the first time we played them was eight minutes,” Zank said. “They like to hold the ball and control the clock and keep it away from our offense. I expect more of the same.”