To stop Nikiski, teams can’t just stop Stephen Hartley.
The Bulldogs (1-1 overall) unleashed a three-headed running attack to defeat Skyview 34-7 on Friday in nonconference action at Nikiski.
In rolling up a 35:20 to 12:40 advantage in time of possession, Hartley did his share of damage. He ran 30 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
But much of his damage came after Nikiski proved it could also attack with Tristin Apted or Christian Riddall. Apted had 21 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns, while Riddall carried 15 times for 155 yards.
All told, Nikiski rushed 70 times for 397 yards.
“They played awesome against him, trying to shut him down,” Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said of Hartley. “They know he’s an all-state guy. The other running backs — Tristin and Christian — had a great game.”
On their first possession, the Bulldogs got 4 yards on four carries, earning a first down only due to penalties. Riddall did not see the ball on that first possession, but he got the first carry of the second possession and broke outside for 12 yards to loosen up the Skyview defense.
That run started an 80-yard, 12-play scoring drive that culminated with a 2-yard plunge by Hartley.
Apted had one word to sum up a Nikiski offense that ran 74 plays to Skyview’s 30 — discipline.
“Everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing each and every play,” he said. “We were staying on our blocks and running hard.”
The Panthers stayed in the game despite losing their top two quarterbacks and their top running back due to injuries. Skyview answered Nikiski’s score with a 55-yard bomb from DJ Collier to Tim Duke to knot the score at 7-7 with 11:50 left in the second quarter.
Duke jumped and snatched the ball from a Nikiski defender before landing and somehow keeping his balance well enough to outrace the Nikiski defense to the end zone.
“Tim Duke went up and got it,” Skyview head coach Eric Pomerleau said after his team fell to 0-2. “He’s a special athlete and he’s going to be around for a while because he is only a sophomore.”
Nikiski came back with another 80-yard scoring campaign. This one took 9:01 off the clock and took 18 plays. Apted’s 1-yard touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Pomerleau said his defense was much improved compared to a Week 1 loss to Colony, but just couldn’t get off the field. Nikiski turned the ball over once on a meaningless fake field-goal attempt at the end of the first half.
“We played hard on the defensive side of the ball,” Pomerleau said. “I know I’m going to see more good things on film than I saw last week. It’s a young team that improved in a nonconference game. That’s what it takes to win conference games.”
Nikiski went up 28-7 in the third quarter on scoring runs by Apted and Hartley. Nikiski’s Jesse Ross nabbed his second interception of the game off Collier to end the third quarter.
The pick came on the Nikiski 3-yard line and set up a 97-yard, 12-play scoring drive that essentially ended the game. Hartley ended that march with a 1-yard run with 5:43 left in the game.
The 97-, 80- and 80-yard scoring drives had Riddall lauding the execution of his offense. He said the offensive line made adjustments and blocked better as the game went on. He also said quarterback Seth Carstens made the play fakes that made the outside running plays and counters work.
“This gets everybody’s spirits up,” Apted said. “It brings everybody together knowing we came together and got a victory.”
Skyview opens up Northern Lights Conference play Friday when it hosts Soldotna at 6:30 p.m. Nikiski travels to play nonconference foe Houston at 7 p.m. Friday.
Bulldogs 34, Panthers 7
Nik — Hartley 2 run (Stangel kick), 0:44.
Sky — Duke 55 pass from Collier (Jones kick), 11:50.
Nik — Apted 1 run (Stangel kick), 2:49.
Nik — Apted 6 run (kick failed), 5:32.
Nik — Hartley 9 run (Riddall run), 1:06.
Nik — Hartley 1 run (pass failed), 5:43.
Rushing — Skyview: Tourtelot 9-42, Jones 3-8, Collier 6-29, Edwards 2-7, West 2-8. Nikiski: Apted 21-74, Hartley 30-169, Riddall 15-155, Carstens 4-(-1).
Passing — Skyview: Collier 3-8-2—96. Nikiski: Carstens 2-4-0—13.
Receiving — Skyview: Duke 3-96. Nikiski — Apted 2-13.