A clash between two teams undefeated in the Greatland Conference highlights the Week 5 prep football matchups.
Nikiski (3-1, 1-0) will play host to Eielson (3-0, 1-0) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“Eielson is a good, quality football team,” Nikiski offensive coordinator Scott Anderson said. “I don’t think this game will measure where we’ll be at the end of the year, but it will be a good midseason test.”
The game will feature two teams with a three-headed running attack. For Eielson, Anthony Griffith, Tyler Ellsworth and Wyatt Dunlap have each run for more than 100 yards in two of the Ravens’ games this year.
For Nikiski, Stephen Hartley has rushed for 809 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Christian Riddall has 268 yards and Tristin Apted has 224 yards.
Anderson is not sure if Apted will play due to injury, but he said Michael Stangel should be able to fill in if necessary.
“Their linebackers are good and fast, and they have two or three senior linemen,” Anderson said. “I think their defense is pretty tough.”
Nikiski has not shown much of a passing attack this season, but Anderson said he hopes to start adding that dimension Saturday.
He said the Bulldogs continue to improve, particularly on the line. He called Lincoln Johnson one of the best linemen to ever play at Nikiski. He said freshman Luke Johnson has come a long way, and said Devan Berry continues to play well in his first year as a starter.
Houston at Soldotna,
6:30 p.m. Friday
The Stars are coming off of a 38-8 victory against Homer that left Soldotna, along with Kodiak, as the lone undefeated teams in the Northern Lights Conference.
Houston also is coming off a 32-26 NLC victory over Skyview. SoHi is 2-0 and 3-1, while Houston is 1-1 and 2-2.
“They are coming off a big win, an emotional win,” SoHi coach Galen Brantley Jr. said. “They came from behind.
“We are dealing with the distractions of homecoming at the same time. It could be more difficult than we want it to be.”
The Stars are traditionally a ground and pound team, but against Homer, SoHi again proved it is dangerous throwing the ball. The Stars still ran 38 times for 224 yards, but Noah Fowler loosened up the defense by completing four touchdown passes.
Brantley Jr. was more impressed with his defense than his passing attack, however.
“I think last week we got a lot of attention because we threw four touchdown passes, but our defense was the most impressive from a program standpoint,” Brantley Jr. said. “As far as the kids and the coaching staff are concerned, holding Homer to eight points was a very big success for us.”
Brantley Jr. said the key to that defense has been an aggressive group of linebackers that flies to the ball. That group is led by Zane Miller and Troy Streiff, who had over 20 tackles against Homer. Colton Young also continued to be a ballhawk in the secondary by nabbing another interception.
On offense, Brantley Jr. said linemen Jarrett Urban and John Alexander did a great job battling with Homer’s tough, physical front.
at Skyview, 4 p.m. Friday
The Panthers (0-2, 0-4) draw a tough nonconference test against the Falcons, who are 3-1 overall.
Like Skyview, Thunder Mountain plays in the medium-schools division. The Falcons are 3-0 against medium-schools competition, with their one loss coming to big-schools Juneau.
“They have some really good athletes,” Skyview coach Eric Pomerleau said. “They run a crazy, no-huddle, speed motion offense. It’s putting players all over the place and testing every angle of the field.”
Pomerleau said the challenge of facing the offense is Thunder Mountain gets off a play every eight to nine seconds.
“We’ve got to eliminate big plays,” Pomerleau said. “That’s what they’re trying to get by lining up so quickly.”
Pomerleau said his team made strides forward in a 32-26 loss to Houston, and, just as importantly, Skyview is getting healthy.
Receiver Tyler Howell had a monster game against the Hawks, catching eight balls for 153 yards and a touchdown.
“The kids are just excited to get out and play,” Pomerleau said. “Kids are feeling better coming off of injuries and we’re getting close to full strength.”
Kodiak at Kenai,
3 p.m. Saturday
This is a pivotal game for two playoff hopefuls out of the Northern Lights Conference.
The Kardinals are 0-1 in the conference and 0-4 overall, while the Bears are 1-0 in the conference at 2-2 overall.
Kenai Central, the defending medium-schools state champion, lost 43-9 at big-schools Monroe on Saturday.
Despite the big loss, Kenai coach John Marquez said the game was a step forward. The Kardinals have had trouble sustaining drives all year. In the first half, Marquez said that was not the case.
“We moved the ball on a very good defense,” he said. “That’s huge for us right now going into the last four weeks of the season, which are all conference games.”
Marquez said that North Pole has a well-coached, high-powered offense that can score in five seconds at any time, and that was the difference in the game.
Against Kodiak, Marquez said the Kards will try to build on the ball-possession attack.
“Something clicked with the kids,” Marquez said. “We went into the North Pole game knowing we couldn’t pass on them. All our focus was on blocking the right people.”
Marquez said the Bears use a three-back system that also keeps the ball on the ground. But he is mindful that Colony and North Pole have shown Kenai is vulnerable through the air.
“They have film, too,” Marquez said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they put in a package to throw against us.”
Sitka at Homer,
3 p.m. Saturday
Homer is finally back home again.
The Mariners will set foot on their home turf for the first time this season. The football field is having a track constructed around it, so Homer was forced to play a home game Saturday against Soldotna at Skyview High School. Homer lost 38-8.
“The kids have been pretty excited,” Homer coach Camron Wyatt said. “A lot of these kids have never played down there before. The seniors want to finish their season there. As a senior, you want to be on your home field playing.”
The game against the Wolves is a nonconference affair between two medium-schools competitors. Homer is 1-2 heading into the game.
Wyatt said Sitka will not provide quite the test that Soldotna did, but he said the Wolves are a solid team. Homer topped Sitka in Sitka last season.
The Homer coach said his squad is looking to take the Soldotna loss and build on it. Against the Stars, Homer was hurt by big pass plays. Homer corners Konstantin Reutov and Quinn Daugharty were playing in just their second competitive tackle football game, ever.
Despite that inexperience, Wyatt put nine in the box on defense and left the corners to fend for themselves.
“We wanted to put them in that situation and get them to understand the learning curve,” Wyatt said. “I wasn’t disappointed in our defense at all. We knew that was a chance we were taking.
“We got scatter-brained a few times and SoHi took advantage, but the things we did wrong are fixable.”
Wyatt also would like to follow the evolution of SoHi’s offense. The Stars have become known for running the ball, but passing has made them even more dangerous. Homer also is traditionally a running team, but Wyatt said sophomore quarterback Sheldon Hutt has the potential to stretch defenses.
“We’ve become known for going north and south,” Wyatt said. “We want to be able to go north, south, east and west.”
Wyatt said some team members were sick against SoHi, but he gave particular credit to lineman Zach Fraley for a gutsy performance.
“The way he played for how sick he was, it was definitely a Mariner man hooker-upper,” Wyatt said.
Seward at Barrow,
1 p.m. Saturday
The Seahawks make the long trip north in search of their first Greatland Conference win of the season.
Seward is 0-2 and 1-3, while Barrow is 1-1 and 1-1. Barrow is coming off of a 44-14 victory over Valdez, while Seward lost 54-0 to Nikiski last week.