In a span of five minutes, Shaun Walton turned a tight game into a romp.
The junior scored three times — twice on interceptions — in the second half that pushed Kodiak to a 56-32 nonconference football victory over Homer Friday at Joe Floyd Track and Field.
The win gave the Bears their first 3-0 start since 2008, the last year the team made an appearance in a state championship game. With five games left, Kodiak has already equaled its win total from last season.
“We are starting a lot of young guys and I have watched them grow up the last three weeks into being good football players,” Kodiak second-year coach Bill McGuire said.
In a game that had all the makings of a shootout — Kodiak led 27-24 at halftime — it was big plays on defense that kept the Bears perfect at home this season as they head into this Friday’s Northern Lights Conference opener against Palmer at the Floyd.
Kodiak picked off junior gunslinger Teddy Croft three times in the second half, which included Walton’s two pick-sixes. The other interception by Corbit Brewer was in the end zone. The Bears outscored Homer 29-8 in the second half as they improved to 7-6 all-time against the Kenai Peninsula school.
Both of Walton’s interceptions were identical. He jumped the sideline route and had clear paths to the end zone — the first from 53 yards out with 3:58 left in the third and the second from 30 yards out with 10:48 left in the contest.
“I just did my job and it just happened,” said Walton, who sandwiched a 15-yard scoring reception between the interceptions and ended with four receptions for 41 yards.
After Walton’s run, Kodiak led 49-24.
“That pumped up the team so much,” senior Jay Miranda said. “For him doing that, it just amped us up and kept us going.”
Miranda, who missed Kodiak’s first two games because of personal reasons, made a galloping 2016 debut. The senior rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns — 35 and 70 yards — on 15 carries. He had seven rushes that eclipsed 10 yards and five that went for more than 20.
“I felt like I was caged up and now I was released,” said Miranda, whose two scores both came in the second half.
More like the entire offense was released. After netting only five touchdowns in the first two games, McGuire was looking for better production from his unit. He got it.
Quarterback Andreas Carros scrambled for 108 yards and two short-yardage touchdowns and connected on 7 of 14 passing for 129 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears tallied 453 total yards of offense — 324 on the ground.
“It helps getting Miranda back, he had some beautiful runs, but overall execution was there,” McGuire said.
Homer, a former NLC member now part of the small-school Peninsula Conference, stayed with Kodiak through the first half as the two teams traded early blows.
Croft accounted for 302 yards of offense — 100 on the ground and 202 through the air — and four touchdowns. The signal caller, who missed last week’s game against Barrow because of concussion-like symptoms, was 13 for 26 with one touchdown.
“Hats off to their quarterback,” McGuire said. “He is as good as we have seen. He is fantastic. Every ball was on the money.”
First-quarter passing and rushing touchdowns from Croft gave Homer a 15-13 lead after the opening 12 minutes.
Kodiak went up for good just three seconds into the second quarter when Carros plunged in from 1-yard out.
Homer (0-3) coach Josh Fraley applauded Kodiak for taking advantage of a Mariner squad that dealt with injuries in the second half — leading receiver Dawson Felde was carted off the field early in the third quarter after his head smacked the turf. McGuire reported on Saturday that he was OK.
“Kudos to them,” Fraley said. “They took the momentum back and are a good football team.”
Kodiak now enters the tough part of its schedule with three straight NLC games against Palmer, Kenai and Soldotna.
The Bears hope the momentum built during the first three games spills into the conference games.
“It is really good to show everybody in the conference that we are ready,” Miranda said.
BEARS 56, MARINERS 32
Homer 15 9 0 8 — 32
Kodiak 13 14 8 21 — 56
Kod — Carros 1 run (kicked failed), 10:17
Hom — Ravin 21 pass from Croft (Croft pass from Felde), 8:47
Kod — Galindez 24 pass from Carros (Francisco kick), 7:53
Hom — Croft 9 run (Beck kick), 2:22
Kod — Carros 3 run (pass failed), 11:57
Hom — Beck 30 field goal, 8:15
Kod — Miranda 70 run (Galindez pass from Carros), 3:01
Hom — Croft 6 run (run failed), 0:13
Kod — Walton 53 INT return (Francisco pass from Carros), 3:58
Kod — Walton 15 pass from Carros (pass failed), 11:44
Kod — Walton 30 INT return (Carros run), 10:48
Hom — Croft 4 run (Ravin pass from Croft), 7:44
Kod — Miranda 35 run (Francisco kick), 7:32
First downs 17 13
Rushes-yards 52-188 27-324
Passing yards 202 129
Comp-Att-Int 13-26-3 7-14-0
Punts 2 1
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-3
Penalties 10-66 3-35
Rushing — Homer: Love 20-71, Croft 26-100, Woo 1-4, Rios 1-(-1), Heimbold 4-14. Kodiak: Carros 7-108, Galindez 2-4, Miranda 15-218, Hodson 3-(-6).
Passing — Homer: Croft 13-26-3 — 202. Kodiak: Carros 7-14-0 — 129.
Receiving — Homer: Felde 5-49, Ravin 5-119, Heimbold 1-24, Beck 1-7, Love 3-3. Kodiak: Galindez 1-24, Walton 4-41, LaDera 1-34, W. Brewer 1-30.