The first four weeks of the high school football season were rough for Kodiak.
In the toughest stretch of games since becoming a varsity program in 2004, the Bears faced three Division I programs — Dimond, Chugiak and Wasilla — and former large-school Palmer to begin the season.
Kodiak was outscored 181-0.
“That is a hard thing to overcome,” Kodiak coach Bryan Ellsworth said. “When you don’t score, it takes a toll on you mentally. We are doing a lot of good things, but it is not showing up on the scoreboard.”
The Bears have had at least four turnovers in every game, a number that Ellsworth said has to go down for his team to win.
“We are shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said.
Luckily for Kodiak, all four games were nonconference. The real season begins Friday when the Bears host Eagle River in a Northern Lights Conference opener for both teams.
The game kicks at 6 p.m. at Joe Floyd Track and Field.
“We are looking forward to a fresh start because the first part has not been great to us,” Ellsworth said.
Friday’s game begins a three-game stretch of NLC games — the Bears travel to Soldotna in Week 6 and host Kenai in Week 7.
The top two teams in the four-team conference qualify for the Division II playoffs, a place Kodiak has not been since 2013.
With Soldotna in the conference, Kodiak, Eagle River and Kenai are all battling for the final playoff spot. The Stars and Kardinals begin conference play in Week 6.
“I told the players, especially the seniors that the season is still ahead of us,” Ellsworth said. “We need to win two out of three conference games — that is the goal and has been since the beginning.”
Eagle River grabbed the No. 2 spot last season but has gotten off to a 2-2 start this season — losing to Lathrop (42-14) and Houston (19-14), while beating North Pole (26-13) and West Valley (36-30).
Last week, Eagle River overcame a 30-8 deficit to upend West Valley. The Wolves rushed for more than 300 yards in the win.
“They are going to come in and try to run the ball against us,” Ellsworth said. “We haven’t shown the real capability of stopping that yet — that will be the test.”
Eagle River is 4-1 all-time against Kodiak since dropping from Division I to Division II in 2015.