Anchorage — Their 14 penalties raised a concern, particularly those five flags for encroachment, including a pair on back-to-back plays in the first half.
But, really, that's just nit-picking, especially for a season opener.
Bottom-line: The Service Cougars remained explosive, which they've been for several football seasons.
In their debut under head coach Kevin Kern, the Cougars on Friday night exploited terrific field position and leveraged four touchdown passes from senior C.J. Toomer, three of them to Nyeem Johnson, into a 52-21 nonconference victory over Colony at Anchorage Football Stadium.
Service of the Cook Inlet Conference, which lost to CIC member South in the state title game last October, also delivered a special-teams touchdown, generated four touchdowns in a second-quarter span of seven-plus minutes, racked three turnovers, including two interceptions by Joel Bresser, and made a goal-line stand.
Toomer completed 15 of 21 passes for 222 yards. His only interception, thrown in the first minute of the fourth quarter, from his own end zone, came on his last play of the game -- Kern played substitutes for much of the last 12 minutes -- and proved the equivalent of an excellent punt. And speaking of punts, Toomer booted two for an average of 41.5 yards.
For a large-school program that has advanced to the state championship game three years running, its 2013 debut was dynamite.
"A lot of people underestimated us, me being a new coach and us losing so many players (from last year's state runner-up team),'' Kern said. "A lot of people forget C.J. started five games last season and we had a slew of (current seniors) who were close to being starters last year.
"And our JV team went 7-1 last year. I'm really proud of these guys, and the coaches did a great job.''
Despite the game going to a running clock in the last 6:50 -- Service's 52-14 lead at that point triggered the mercy rule -- Colony of the Railbelt Conference showed hints it could be a dangerous team. Bryce Niver threw three touchdown passes, two to Antonio Bush and one to Daniel Bilafer, and bruising fullback Fischer Summers rushed for 35 yards and caught two passes for 36 yards.
The Knights were hampered by their turnovers, and a difficult opponent.
"Too many mistakes,'' said Bilafer, who caught five passes for 96 yards. "Service is a great team -- they've won how many state championships? I feel like we could have made the score closer.
"We showed hints of what we're capable of, offensively and defensively. We've had great moments. Now, we have to have a great game.''
Toomer, afforded ample protection by an offensive line that is entirely new -- "My big boys protected me,'' he said -- unleashed his passes with authority and precision, and spread the ball to six different receivers.
"It helps a lot knowing there are hands all over the field,'' Toomer said. "Coming into the season, we had a lot of question marks because (current receivers) were behind seniors last year. But I think we answered a lot of those questions tonight.''
After Colony took a 7-0 lead on Niver's 23-yard strike to Antonio Bush (four catches, 42 yards, two touchdowns), who like Bilafer is 6-foot-4 and towers over defensive backs, Service found its stride.
The Cougars recovered the ensuing onside kick to begin their third possession of the evening on their own 49-yard line. Toomer hit Trevon Allen for 20 yards, Levi Hanson ran for 17 yards and Toomer hit Johnson for a 14-yard touchdown. All that took just 41 seconds.
Colony fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Emetrius McLeod returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. Hansen soon scored on a 3-yard run, Toomer connected with Johnson on a 30-yard touchdown, and Toomer made a late option pitch to speedster Eric Jones (10 carries, 68 yards) for a 38-yard touchdown run.
Presto: Service 33, Colony 7, with nearly five minutes left in the first half.
It helped that in Service's first seven possessions of the first half, it began its drives, on average, on the Colony 41.
Johnson caught four passes for 76 yards and those three scores.
"I'd like to thank my quarterback and my coaches,'' Johnson said. "I'm just trying to do my job.''
Nahshon Fromm caught a 34-yard strike from Toomer and Monti Bibbs caught an 11-yard touchdown from Toomer's backup, Jared Peltola, who also rushed three times for 21 yards.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Colony \t7 \t7 \t0 \t7 -- 21
Service \t13 \t26 \t6 \t7 -- 52
Colony -- Bush 23 pass from Niver (D. Bilafer kick), 4:11.
Service -- Johnson 14 pass from Toomer (Raguindin kick), 3:30
Service -- McLeod 17 fumble recovery (kick failed), 3:19.
Service -- Hansen 3 run (pass failed), 10:44
Service -- Johnson 30 pass from Toomer (pass failed), 8:08.
Service -- Jones 38 run (Hansen run), 4:55
Service -- Fromm 34 pass from Toomer (kick failed), 3:22
Colony -- D. Bilafer 32 pass from Niver (D. Bilafer kick), 2:27
Service -- Johnson pass from Toomer (run failed), 3:12
Service -- Bibbs pass from Peltola (Raguindin kick), 6:50
Colony -- Bush 6 pass from Niver (D. Bilafer kick), 1:05.
First downs 17 20
Rushes-yards 39-127 28-137
Passing yards 174 248
Return yards 160 84
Passes 11-25-2 17-25-1
Punts 4-16.5 2-41.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-64 14-100
RUSHING -- Colony: Niver 19-60, Conway 9-35, Summers 10-35,Looney 1-(-3). Service: Jones 10-68, Hansen 5-31, Peltola 3-21, Summerlin 2-17, Toomer 4-12, Langlais 4-9.
PASSING -- Colony: Niver 11-25-2--174. Service: Toomer 15-21-1--222. Peltola 2-4-0--26.
RECEIVING -- Colony: D. Bilafer 5-96, Bush 4-42, Summers 2-36. Service: Johnson 4-76, Srisaneha 4-43, Fromm 3-55, Allen 2-23, Raguindin 1-16, McLeod 1-15, Bibbs 1-11, Fomai 1-10.