In non-conference action, the Mariners’ first football game of the season on a brand new turf field resulted in a 41-16 loss to the Eielson Ravens.
“It was kind of a rough day and didn’t go exactly how we’d planned,” said Head Coach Josh Fraley. “There were way too many mistakes and we only had 19 guys.”
All was not lost, however. The game offered Fraley a good opportunity to sharpen the team’s game plan before taking on the Kodiak Bears in Kodiak this weekend in the season’s first conference game.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of the football and getting the offense on the field,” said Fraley. “Defense is a very intense, physically demanding part of the game. You don’t dictate the tempo. You just have to play.”
The Ravens set that tempo with the first touchdown of the game made less than halfway into the first quarter. That set the score at 6-0, until Mariner Connor Seay brought the hometown fans to their feet with an 84-yard run only three minutes later. Seay’s teammate Sheldon Hutt tacked on another two points, bringing the score to 8-6 in the Mariners’ favor.
“(Connor) did great,” said Fraley. “He’s an explosive kind of kid and I’m hoping to get him the ball more, but we just couldn’t do it on Saturday. You can expect to see several more of those plays this year.”
In the second quarter, the Ravens shoved the Mariners aside, raising the score to 28-8 by halftime. They continued their push in the third quarter, tacking on seven more points while holding the Mariners at 8.
In the fourth quarter, Homer’s Joshua Fisk bridged the two-yard distance to the end zone, picking up the Mariners’ second touchdown.
“That ended up being kind of a fumble, but (Fisk) scooped it and we were able to get the conversion as well,” said Fraley, referring to the two points added on by Michael Swoboda that brought the game to 35-16.
That late in the game, it wasn’t enough, however. The distance in the score widened further when the Ravens brought the game to an end with one more touchdown, ending the game with a score of 41-16.
Fraley is hoping to have more players back in town and eligible by the time the team heads to Kodiak. In the Eielson game, 11 of the 19 team memebers were freshmen.
“Whenever you’re a freshman and asked to start varsity, it’s a world-shaker. It’s a whole different speed, but they didn’t shy away from anything and made some plays,” said Fraley. “We asked way more than we should have. If I’d had another choice, I would have never put them in the positions I had to, but under the circumstances, they did very, very well.”
That many freshmen put more weight on senior members on the team.
“We’re going to work on that, work on trying to get the guys to understand that regardless of who is on the team, they’ve got to carry the load, be the leaders,” said Fraley.
The team leaves early Saturday morning by ferry for Kodiak, and returns on the ferry to Valdez and then by bus back to Homer. They continue their road games, playing Barrow in Barrow on Aug. 30 and Nikiski in Nikiski on Sept. 2. The Mariners’ next varsity at-home game is Sept. 13 against Ketchikan.
“We’ll have a lot of team-bonding time,” said Fraley of traveling across the state. “When you go on the road, you bond as a team. Yeah, the guys have to deal with homework and all that, but you get to spend a lot of extra time being around the kids and talking football. It’s pretty fun and makes us stronger as a team.”
If the long travel to and from Kodiak, by sea and land, wasn’t enough, Fraley said going to Barrow is “an experience,” from the bright blue and gold turf field, to the 12-foot high fence that keeps out the polar bears.
“When they decided to build the field, they put it right where they drag the whales up, so you get the smell of dead whales and a little bit of everything,” said Fraley. “There’s no trees so the wind is always blowing, and the weather report yesterday said it was 34 degrees so we might get snow. I’ve been there twice and it’s pretty wild.”