The Nikiski football team overwhelmed the Voznesenka Cougars 46-6 at Nikiski High School in a Greatland Conference matchup on Thursday, improving the Bulldogs’ record to 4-0 in the conference (4-2 overall) and putting them in a great spot to make the playoffs with home-field advantage.
“We’re trying to get ourselves in a position to be hitting on all cylinders, and those kids are answering every week, and they’re stepping up each week and doing what we’re telling them to do,” said Nikiski coach Ted Riddall.
Senior Michael Stangel led Nikiski with 188 offensive yards — 120 rushing and 68 receiving — and two touchdowns, and senior teammate Garrett Feller added 87 rushing and 21 passing yards and one touchdown.
However, Feller’s biggest accomplishment was kicking a 38-yard field goal late in the first quarter that broke the Nikiski school record, which was previously set at 37 yards.
“It’s been around for 19 years, so we wanted to break it,” Riddall said. “We knew he could do it, and we wanted Stangel to get it too, but he wasn’t hitting the ball good enough.”
Nikiski ended up hitting only two out of six attempted field goals, in an attempt to avoid running up the score on the Cougars.
Jesse Eide added 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own, and was quite a force on the defensive side of the ball as well.
“We had our linemen blocking really good, making big holes, making it pretty easy for us,” Eide said about his team’s performance. “We played hard and played to the end, and got our JV guys in. We came out prepared, we wanted to improve and we have.”
The Bulldogs struck early with touchdowns on their first three drives, consisting of seven total plays and 111 yards in the first eight minutes of the game that put Nikiski up 21-0. Voznesenka’s first three drives consisted of a punt, turnover on downs and a fumble.
Late in the first quarter, Voznesenka quarterback Avraam Kalugin threw two straight interceptions to sophomore Dylan Broussard. The first pick led to the first 38-yard field goal attempt that Michael Stangel missed, and the second led to the one that Feller knocked home for the school record.
Feller attempted to increase his new record with a 43-yard kick early in the third quarter, but the ball soared low under the crossbar.
“It’s a concern if you don’t execute in other phases of the game,” said Riddall about the teams’ missed kicks for points. “You know, if Eielson blocks a PAT, that could make the difference in a one-point game.”
Trailing 34-0 at halftime, Voznesenka tried to come out charging in the second half, but their plan was thwarted pretty fast. On the first play of their opening drive, Kalugin threw a backward pass to a receiver in the backfield, but fell short. While Voznesenka players lowered their guard, thinking the play was over, Nikiski’s Dylan Jackson saw an opportunity and picked the live ball up and ran the other way for a fumble return touchdown.
“It was discipline,” said Voz coach Justin Zank, whose team is 2-2 in the league and overall. “Not lining up correctly, not hearing the snap count, false starts, fumbles. Some of it is inexperience, some of it is guys nerved up and some of it is lack of concentration. Not enough practice for some of the guys.”
Running back Mavrick Ivanov fumbled on the Cougars’ very next offensive play, leading to Nikiski attempting the 43-yard field goal.
The lone score for Voz came late in the third quarter, when Dennis Martishev stripped the ball from Nikiski freshman Michael Odis in Voz territory and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown. Martishev came up short on the 2-point conversion.
Nikiski, now 4-0 in the Greatland Conference, stands a good chance of not only making it into the small-schools postseason, but also holding home-field advantage. The Bulldogs are currently tied atop the standings with Eielson, and if they can win one of their final two regular-season games against Eielson and Monroe, they will clinch a postseason home game.
“Obviously, going into it, you’re giving yourself an opportunity,” Riddall said. “Both teams are 4-0 in the conference and anything can happen, and they’re a great football team.”
Bulldogs 46, Cougars 6
Nikiski 24 10 12 0 —46
Voznesenka 0 0 6 0 —6
1st Qu arter
Nik — Eide 5 run (Stangel kick), 9:36
Nik — Stangel 25 pass from Anderson (Stangel kick), 6:32
Nik — Stangel 3 run (Stangel kick), 4:05
Nik — Feller 38 FG
Nik — Feller 36 FG
Nik — Eide 35 run (Feller kick), 4:49
Nik — Jackson 20 fumble return (kick failed), 11:25
Nik — Feller 52 run (kick failed), 7:31
Voz — Martishev 72 fumble return (run failed), 1:54
First downs 33 17
Rushing yds 38-395 20-106
Pass yds 130 0
Comp-Att-Int 8-14-0 0-10-3
Return yds 9 69
Punts 0 4
Fumbles 1 3
Penalties 5-30 4-20
Rushing — Nikiski: Stangel 6-120, Eide 5-70, Feller 4-87, Carstens 11-76, Odis 9-38, Smith 2-6, Anderson 1-(-2). Voznesenka: Martishev 15-112, Ivanov 10-10, Reutov 1-(-2), D. Kalugin 1-3, A. Kalugin 10-(-10), G. Kalugin 1-0.
Passing — Nikiski: Anderson 8-13-0—130, Malston 0-2-0—0. Voznesenka: A. Kalugin 0-10-3—0.
Receiving — Nikiski: Stangel 5-68, Holloway 1-41, Feller 2-21.