Ten of the 19 players on Eielson High School’s football roster Saturday were either freshmen or sophomores.
The game-day program for the Division III nonconference game against the Ketchikan Kings was proof of the Ravens’ youth. So was a statement by Eielson head coach David DeVaughn near the end of the second half after Ketchikan scored on a 50-yard pass play to cut the hosts’ lead to eight points.
“Oh, growing pains,” DeVaughn said on the Ravens sideline at Buck Nystrom Field on Eielson Air Force Base.
However, the Ravens emerged with a 48-26 victory to help ease the growing pains and improve to 2-0 after Eielson trailed 8-0 and 14-6 in the first quarter.
“We’re really young,” DeVaughn said after the game. “We let a couple of easy ones (touchdowns) go because of our youth. Guys’ eyes in the backfield when they should be covering guys and stuff like that.
He added, “Those guys are out there working hard. They’re getting better every day and we cleaned up some things at halftime.”
Junior running back Will McManus was a good example of Eielson’s work ethic.
He rushed for a game-high 172 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns. He scored on a 4-yard for 20-14 lead with 6:50 left in the second quarter and contributed a 36-yard scoring dash with 9:35 left in the third quarter for a 40-26 lead.
McManus provided four two-point conversion runs, and on defense, he was a force at linebacker against a Peninsula Conference squad, which got 295 yards passing from three quarterbacks Saturday.
McManus managed to flourish Saturday on a Ravens squad, which used 16 players and no substitutes.
“We were just out there getting tired because we have no subs. We have 16 players and it’s just hard to not stay tired,” McManus said. “But when we’re all working as a whole, we do really good out here.”
Freshman Tyler Moore was a good example of promising youth for the Ravens.
While playing at defensive back, he intercepted two passes to give him four in his first two high school football games.
“I was just playing how coach told me,” Moore said. “I guess we just have a great DB (defensive backfield). I can’t explain.”
His other two pickoffs came during Eielson’s 32-12 season-opening win over the North Pole Patriots in a nonconference game Aug. 16 at James Watson Patriot Pride Field at North Pole High School.
Moore scored twice Saturday while playing wide receiver Saturday.
His 39-yard run and McManus’ ensuing two-point conversion run tied the game at 14 with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. Moore gave Eielson a 34-20 lead after hauling in a pass from Payton DeVaughn and streaking down the left sideline with 1:30 left before halftime. It was the senior quarterback’s only completion in four attempts Saturday.
“He’s an athlete,” coach DeVaughn said of Moore. “His thing is he just had to give in to the team.
“When everybody’s doing their job, everybody shines.”
Sophomore Brandon Polesky running back/linebacker had touchdown rushes of 78 yards in the first quarter and 37 in the fourth quarter for the Ravens. Senior teammate Zoltan Holmly registered his second touchdown from a kickoff return this season, as his 86-yard runback and another conversion run by McManus put Eielson ahead 28-20 with 4:16 left in the second quarter.
Junior quarterback Patrick Garcia shined for the Kings before leaving the game in the third quarter with a leg injury.
DeVaughn, before the game, told his players, ‘This guy’s got an arm,” in reference to Garcia, who was 8 for 14 for 174 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in the first half.
Garcia connected twice with Kylar Charles — a 27-yard strike for 14-6 lead with 2:08 left in the first quarter and the 50-yarder with 14 seconds before halftime to cut Eielson’s lead to 34-26.
“We saw a lot of positives,” Ketchikan head coach Ryan Varela said. “Our message to them (team) at half was get a stop, get the ball back, and if we can score, we’re back in this ball game. We looked at it very much as a 0-0 game.”
Garcia’s injury, though, affected the Kings in the second half.
“He is the heart and soul of the offense,” Varela said. “He is a guy who is both a player’s player and a coach’s player.
“We ask him to do anything he does it. He’s holding the guys to the same high standard he’s holding himself.”
Reserve QB Brendan Roof passed for 104 yards on 3-of-4 attempts, including a 48-yard touchdown to Jaden Stern with 4:41 left in the second to make it 20-20.
Stern also produced the game’s first score with a 4-yard run with 7:31 left in the opening quarter. Garcia followed with a two-point conversion run to give the Kings an 8-0 lead.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.