KENAI - With just 17 players in uniform for Saturday's season opener against Juneau-Douglas, the Kenai Central High School football team didn't look like much of a match for the visiting Crimson Bears.
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JDHS quarterback Chris Hinkley threw for 145 yards and two touchdowns as the Crimson Bears rolled to a 39-0 non-conference thumping of the four-time defending small-school champions.
"They're a good football team," Kenai coach Jim Beeson said of JDHS, the defending large-school champs.
Kenai was forced to play the game without its star player - junior running back and defensive back Bill Chimphalee. Chimphalee, starting lineman Wes Quade and backup Cody Booth were suspended from the team indefinitely for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.
"We have some adversity and we just have to deal with it," Beeson said of his team's disciplinary situation.
Beeson said he does not yet know how long the players' suspensions will last.
Without Chimphalee patrolling the secondary, Hinkley picked apart the Kenai defense, completing passes to five receivers in an efficient performance.
Juneau appeared to score on the first play from scrimmage, but a penalty negated a 71-yard TD strike from Hinkley to wide receiver Daryl Lew.
The Crimson Bears got on the board late in the first quarter on an impressive 95-yard, 10-play drive capped by a 14-yard swing pass from Hinkley to Alex Robinson. Jesse West's kick failed, leaving JDHS ahead 6-0.
The first quarter was played fairly close as Kenai managed its best offensive period of the game, gaining 30 yards and a couple first downs.
Kenai got a bit of hope in the second quarter when defensive back Josh Werba intercepted a Hinkley pass and rambled into Juneau-Douglas territory.
Werba proved a bright spot for Kenai's defense, with a number of hard hits out of the defensive backfield.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Stuart Stretch busted up the middle for an 11-yard run down to the Juneau 33.
That would be as close as the Kardinals would get all afternoon.
The Kardinals failed to gain a yard in the next three plays and punted the ball away.
"I thought we came out and played well in the first half," Beeson said.
Stretch finished the game as Kenai's leading rusher, grinding out 34 yards on 12 carries. Tyler Smith added 12 rushing yards for the Kardinals, who were held to just 33 yards of total offense on the day.
Juneau finished the afternoon with 274 yards of offense, led by Silver Maake's 61 yards on the ground and Alex Fagerstrom's 99 all-purpose yards.
JDHS extended its lead with a minute left in the half as Hinkley exploited a defensive breakdown by Kenai and hit a wide-open Fagerstrom for a 46-yard score.
Hinkley - who threw for more than 2,000 yards and 36 touchdowns last year - said he was happy with how his team looked in its first test since winning last year's title.
"I'm pretty happy with how this young team came together," he said. "This was definitely a stepping stone for us."
Juneau didn't waste any time stretching its lead in the second half.
After Kenai's opening drive of the half stalled deep in its own territory, Carlo Ebron took a short punt and scampered 33 yards to put Juneau ahead 19-0.
Kenai handed Juneau its fourth score late in the third quarter. Juneau's Zach Heppner recovered a fumble on the Kardinals' 1-yard line after a hard hit jarred the ball loose from Kenai running back Tyler Smith.
Hinkley converted the quarterback sneak and West's kick gave Juneau a 26-0 advantage.
Nate Wilson and Fagerstrom each added TD runs in the fourth quarter to give the Crimson Bears their final margin of victory.
"They're going to be there again this season," Beeson said. "They get after it, they play hard and they're well-coached."
As for his squad, Beeson said Kenai must find a way to deal with a difficult situation and move forward as the conference season nears.
The Kardinals host Ketchikan on Saturday with JDHS opens the home portion of its schedule Friday against Lathrop.
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