If any game has shown unbreakable Homer Mariner pride, it was Saturday’s game against the Kenai Kardinals, with the Kardinals winning 78-6.
“It was definitely a game that tested the guys’ mettle,” said Mariner Head Coach Josh Fraley.
The game also proved a famous line of the late Duffy Daugherty, 18-year head coach of Michigan State University.
“Football isn’t a contact sport. It’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport,” according to Daugherty, a 1984 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The Kards’ defense repeatedly bulldozed through the Mariner’s offense, more than once pushing Homer into its own end zone, and closing off all but one attempt at a Mariner touchdown.
“We had a lot of problems on our offensive line,” said Fraley. “I guess that was probably our weakest place.”
Kenai running back Jace Daniels led the Kardinals’ charge, carrying the ball 17 times for 270 yards and eight touchdowns. In spite of the nonstop pressure, however, the Mariners continued to battle, with quarterback Sheldon Hutt putting Homer on the board with an 80-yard rushing touchdown.
As soon as the Mariners kicked off the game, the Kardinals’ strength exploded in an unstoppable push that had Homer backstepping.
“That really set the tone for their physicality,” said Fraley. “We got knocked for a pretty good loop. It really kind of put the guys back on their heels.”
By the end of the first quarter, the Kardinals had gained a 21-0 foothold.
“We never really recovered from that,” said Fraley. “It was kind of hard to watch … By the time (Kenai) got that many touchdowns and we kept getting stopped, it was hard to get (the team) back into the game.”
The second quarter began with more of the same, as the Kardinals immediately scored another touchdown. The Mariners continued to fight, but the intensity of the Kenai team never faltered. By halftime the score was 63-0.
“(The Mariners) kept battling, but it definitely wasn’t there anymore,” said Fraley. “I tried to get them to regroup at halftime.”
Fraley’s message to his team must have hit home. In the third quarter, after Kenai scored another touchdown, Hutt found a way through the Kardinals’ defense, giving Homer its one and only six-point touchdown of the game and giving the Mariner supporters cause to rock the bleachers.
“That was pure will on Sheldon’s part, him just not wanting to go down the way they were going,” said Fraley.
The third quarter ended with Kenai maintaining their lead, 71-6. During the fourth quarter, the Kardinals finished the game with one more touchdown.
Fraley found cause to praise his team in the face of Kenai’s unrelenting power. Repeatedly finding himself with little room to move, running back Joseph Cardoza, a senior “really tried to keep his composure, but he was taking some big shots.” Playing with a knee injury, wide receiver Drew Brown “did what he could.” Linebacker Michael Swoboda “played really hard, even with an injury. He just kept giving the guys everything he had.”
“There were several guys that I was really impressed with their heart, their integrity to just keep going even though they knew what was happening,” said Fraley. “As a coach, I got to the point where I was getting really worried about their safety and trying to get the game over without getting anyone really hurt.”
Homer’s first away-game of the season is against Skyview on Saturday.
“Skyview is a winnable game,” said Fraley. “Any other week I would say I was supremely confident we’d go up there and take care of business. I just have to see how the guys are going to be mentally and how to patch these holes. I have all the confidence in the world in their ability.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.
Watch them play Saturday
Homer Mariners vs. Skyview Panthers at Skyview in Soldotna;
Junior varsity, 11 a.m.
Varsity, 2 p.m.