Kodiak returns to NLC play

Kodiak’s Jemuel Medina tries to avoid Thunder Mountain’s Austin Thomas, Ben Jahn and Chris Mack during Saturday’s 14-13 loss to the Falcons in Juneau. (Klas Stolpe photo)

Kodiak’s game against Kenai Saturday will go a long way in deciding the Bears’ playoff fate.

Kodiak enters the 3 p.m. Northern Lights Conference tilt at Kenai with a 1-0 conference record, while the Kardinals are 0-1.

The top three NLC teams qualify for the medium-school playoffs, and in most seasons three wins gets a team in.

“This could be huge. We have a chance to define our own path and choose our own destiny. It’s not often in sports you get to do that,” Kodiak coach Jim Schnick said. “We can set the tone. We can start 2-0 in the conference and be in great shape if we do that.”

Soldotna is already 2-0 in the conference, while Kodiak, Houston and Homer have one win apiece. A Kenai victory Saturday would add another team into the mix, while a Kodiak win would put the Bears closer to making the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Kenai, the defending medium-school champions, has struggled out of the chute this season. The Kardinals are 0-4 with three of those losses against large schools.

Schnick isn’t looking at Kenai’s record, though.

“They are capable of winning,” Schnick said. “Kenai has good coaches and have always got some good quality players so you definitely can’t overlook them.”

Last season, Kenai depended on quarterback AJ Hull to make plays with his legs. With Hull graduated, the Kardinals are a different team.

“We have seen some film on them. They have some quality players. They’ve played some tough competition and from what we have seen on film they have had some turnover issues, too,” Schnick said.

Schnick knows about turnovers.

Kodiak fumbled five times last week in its 14-13 loss to Thunder Mountain and has been plagued by turnover problems this season.

“The team is starting to understand how important ball control is. We got to have ball security and can’t turn it over,” Schnick said.

“We lost in Juneau to a team we probably shouldn’t have just by making our own mental mistakes. If this team, once they get their mental issues figured out and minds on football then we will be a tough team to contend with.”

This is the first of four consecutive conference games for Kodiak after playing two straight nonconference games. After Kenai, the Bears play Soldotna, Homer and Skyview to end the regular season.

Kodiak is 3-7 all-time against the Kardinals. The Bears’ last victory came in 2008.

Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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