North Pole quarterback Chris Lovett runs with the ball during first quarter action of the prep high school football game between the Patriots and the Eielson Ravens Friday night, August 16, 2019 at North Pole High School. Eric Engman/News-Miner

Three high school football games involving teams from the Interior and the Kenai Peninsula were called off Wednesday night because of air quality conditions caused by the Swan Lake wildfire near Sterling.

The wildfire, according to the Peninsula Clarion, had burned about 140,000 acres Tuesday.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District tweeted Wednesday night, “All outdoor athletics at or hosted by @KPBSD schools are canceled until further notice. All activity related to travel between Sterling & Cooper Landing on Sterling Highway is canceled until further notice.”

Frank Ostanik, Monroe Catholic High School athletic director, said the Rams’ home-opening game against the Nikiski Bulldogs was canceled. The Division III nonconference game was scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Kiwanis Field behind the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

Also canceled was the West Valley Wolfpack’s home opener against the Soldotna Stars at 7 p.m. Friday and the Eielson Ravens’ nonconference game against the host Kenai Kardinals at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Eielson was scheduled to travel Friday to Kenai, said Ravens head coach David DeVaughn.

“We’ve been kind of monitoring it since the beginning of the week and looking at road conditions, and how the fires were doing,” DeVaughn, who also is Eielson’s athletic director, said by phone Wednesday.

West Valley’s game against Soldotna, the 11-time defending Division II state champions, was a nonconference Division II contest. Eielson is the defending Division III state champion and Kenai is a member of the Division II Peninsula Conference, which includes Soldotna.

Shaun Kraska, assistant superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, said there could be scrimmages this weekend in the Interior involving Eielson, Monroe Catholic and West Valley after their games against Peninsula opponents were canceled.

“The coaches agreed to it, but they said they would call me in the morning (today) to get it all hammered out,” Kraska said by phone Wednesday.



The high school volleyball season for Interior teams begins today.

West Valley begins on the road against the Colony Knights at 6 p.m. today in a nonconference duel in Palmer. 

The Wolfpack head to Chugiak High School for the annual Chugiak Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The 12-team tournament features an all-pool play format with each game to two sets.

West Valley has four contests Friday and seven Saturday.

The matchups for the Wolfpack on Friday are the Service Cougars, of Anchorage,

at 3:30 p.m.; Wasilla Warriors (4:30 p.m.); East Anchorage Thunderbirds (5:30 p.m.); and Eagle River Wolves (6:30 p.m.).

Saturday’s competition for West Valley begins at 9 a.m. against the South Anchorage Wolverines. 

Its other opponents on the tournament’s last day are Anchorage’s Grace Christian Grizzlies (10 a.m.); Dimond Lynx (11 a.m.); Bartlett Golden Bears, of Anchorage (noon); Colony (1 p.m.); West Anchorage Eagles (3 p.m.); and Chugiak (4 p.m.).

Regular-season tournaments do not count on a team’s overall record. However, a team’s results in a regular-season tournament can be applied toward seeding when it comes to state-tournament berths.

West Valley earned its 20th Mid Alaska Conference tournament title last year and advanced to the Class 4A state tournament in Anchorage.

Eielson plays host to the Valdez Buccaneers in season and Aurora Conference-opening games at 6 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

 Last year, Valdez captured the Aurora tournament title and advanced to the 3A state tournament in Anchorage, where it defeated Nikiski in the state final.

However, the Buccaneers had advanced through the loser’s bracket of the state tournament to get to the final. Despite their win over the Bulldogs in the state final, Valdez had to play Nikiski in an if-necessary set to determine the state champion. 

Nikiski won the if-necessary set and the state title, while Valdez finished as state runner-up.

Monroe Catholic’s junior varsity tournament starts at 3 p.m. Friday with round-robin games.

Besides the host Rams, the tournament’s other JV squads are the Hutchison Hawks, Delta Junction Huskies, Lathrop Malemutes, Valdez and West Valley.

Round-robin matches run 3-8:50 p.m. Friday.

Double-elimination bracket play starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. 

The championship match is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday. If the team from the loser’s bracket wins, a one-set match to 20 points will be played at 6 p.m. to determine the tournament champion.

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.