One week removed from a close loss to Eielson, Nikiski pummeled the Valdez Buccaneers in a 48-6 Greatland Conference win Friday evening at Nikiski.
Senior running back Stephen Hartley rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns, and sophomore teammate Christian Riddall put up 136 rushing yards, including an 81-yard kick return late in the third quarter, and had one touchdown catch.
“We were determined to stop the run in the middle, the gaps were filled, and we were disciplined,” Riddall said. “A lot of young guys were rotated in, so that was good to see.”
Nikiski allowed 704 yards on the ground to Eielson last week, but Hartley said the team had been preparing to not let that happen again. On Friday, Valdez only managed 125 total offensive yards.
“We hit it extra hard on defense in practice, and we did a lot of conditioning in practice,” Hartley said. “We wanted to cover the middle of the field better and we did that today.”
Nikiski converted an early Valdez fumble into a 33-yard touchdown run from Hartley only 21 seconds into the game, on only the second full play of the game.
From there, it was lights out for Valdez, a team that is rebuilding and low on numbers.
“Our defense had a hard time today, because (Nikiski) executes so well, that’s just the way Ted runs his ballclub, I have a lot of respect for him and his team,” Valdez coach Lea Cockerham said. “We knew we were going to have a hard time defensively keeping them off the field, and offensively, we would have liked to have run the ball better, and we live in a wet climate in Valdez, so we usually try to stay away from the pass offense.”
Hartley ran for two more touchdowns in the first quarter, one in the second quarter, and Riddall and junior Michael Stangel took over from there. Stangel had 46 rushing yards, and kicked six of seven extra-point attempts.
“The kids came out with focus tonight, and the bottom line is we weren’t going to allow 700 yards of running again, and we moved some kids around and did some adjustments up front and it paid off,” Nikiski coach Ted Riddall said. “I want to see that kind of play up front when we play to the end, because that’s what it is going to take to make it to the playoffs.”
Nikiski attempted two field goals in the fourth quarter, one for 43 yards and one for 45, but junior Garrett Feller missed both. Feller also missed a short kick in the third quarter.
Nikiski, a team that is known for their strong running game, has been utilizing a developing pass offense recently, and junior quarterback Seth Carstens completed 2 of 3 pass attempts, which was good for 58 yards and a touchdown. Cade Anderson also stepped in and threw 33 yards, including a touchdown pass, late in the second quarter.
“Predominantly, the wing-T is looking to run it, but we’ve got a couple kids that can wing the ball and we have some skilled kids to go get it,” coach Riddall said. “Working on that is good because if teams come up to shut down the run, we can pass it.”
Hartley said he is shooting for the 2,000-yard rushing mark this season, and after Friday’s game, is at 1,306 yards. He also is hoping to score over 26 touchdowns, which would break the Nikiski High School record. He currently has 22 touchdowns.
Riddall said he is working on the 1,000-yard rushing mark as a personal goal, and currently stands at 486, but the two players know it’s not a one-man effort.
“Obviously if you’re putting 400 and 500 yards of run offense on a team, your five linemen and your tight ends have got to be blocking well, and the backs can’t do that alone,” coach Riddall said. “The offensive line did a good job tonight.”
Nikiski leaves week six of the season with a 2-1 conference record, and 4-2 overall. The Bulldogs travel to the Interior next week to play the Monroe Catholic Rams.
“It’ll be a hard-fought game, and they’re also right in the thick of things, so hopefully we can come out and do what we did tonight,” Riddall said.
Friday at Nikiski
Bulldogs 48, Buccaneers 6
Nikiski 21 13 14 0 —48
Valdez 0 0 6 0 —6
Nik — Hartley 33 run (Stangel kick), 11:39
Nik — Hartley 10 run (Stangel kick), 8:14
Nik — Hartley 84 run (Stangel kick), 6:32
Nik — Hartley 22 run (kick failed), 7:11
Nik — Stangel 15 pass from Anderson (Stangel kick), 2:32
Nik — Riddall 42 pass from Carstens (Stangel kick), 9:51
Nik — Riddall 29 run (Stangel kick), 2:05
Val — MacDonald 20 pass from Duffy (pass failed), :18
First downs 23 5
Rushes-yards 40-496 29-51
Passing yards 91 74
Comp-att-int 4-5-1 7-25-2
Punts-yards 1-30 5-180
Fumbles 5 8
Rushing — Nikiski: Hartley 12 for 247, Riddall 7 for 136, Stangel 5 for 46, Apted 8 for 62, Carstens 2 for (-3), Feller 3 for (-3), Jackson 1 for 3, Castro 2 for 8. Valdez: McCain 11 for 34, Freitag 6 for 27, Hursh 7 for 7, MacDonald 4 for (-5), Duffy 1 for (-12).
Passing — Nikiski: Carstens 2-3-1–58, Anderson 2-2-0–33. Valdez: McCain 5-15-1–40, Duffy 2-10-1–34.
Receiving — Nikiski: Stangel 2-31, Apted 1-18, Riddall 1-42. Valdez: MacDonald 3-41, Ramos 3-38 Hursh 1-(-5).