FAIRBANKS—The Barrow Whalers were Kenai’s first postsesaon victims in the Kardinals’ bid to repeat as the small schools state football champion, falling 25-0 Saturday in a quarterfinal contest in Kenai.
A somber mood filled the Whalers’ locker room after the defeat in the third straight postseason appearance for the program that began in 2006 on a dirt field at Barrow’s Illigsavik College, which served as research facility for the U.S. Navy during the Cold War years.
“There’s a lot of seniors with tears knowing that their football careers have come to an end, and there’s a lot of younger kids who are really disappointed for them as well,’’ Whalers head coach Mark Voss, whose team loses six seniors, said by cell phone. “You don’t have to like losing, but you have to understand it and how to deal with it. That’s what life deals you sometimes.”
Kenai dealt Barrow a rushing attack that generated 294 yards compared to the Whalers’ 16. Kai Risung accounted for 168 of Kenai’s yards on 28 carries and he scored on runs of 12 and 15 yards, respectively, in the third and fourth quarters.
Alex Nason caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback AJ Hull in the first quarter, and Johnny Trux scored on an 80-yard interception return at the end of the game for the 6-3 Kardinals, who face the Northern Lights Conference rival Homer Mariners in a state semifinal game at the Anchorage Football Stadium at 4 p.m. Friday or 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Barrow quarterback Eddy Burke completed five of 19 passes for 92 yards with three interceptions, and Colin Long collected three of his passes for 82 yards.
“There were a lot of positives and we had some pretty good offensive plays against the defending state champion,” said Voss, “but we couldn’t get it pushed across the end zone.”
Barrow, of the Greatland Conference, finished 5-4 overall.
In other small schools quarterfinals Saturday, the Homer Mariners cruised to a 34-0 win over Nikiski to end the season of the Greatland champion Bulldogs.
In large schools quarterfinal action, the Service Cougars downed the Palmer Moose 31-21 and the host Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears earned a 24-7 win over the Chugiak Mustangs to advance to this weekend’s semifinals at the Anchorage Football Stadium.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.